UK Unveils Final Version of New National Curriculum

After a number of changes, Britain’s new national curriculum has finally been published, Richard Adams of the Guardian reports. The new curriculum overhauls the way subjects like English, history and modern languages will be taught in UK schools.

Adams calls the resulting standards a “spaghetti-like tangle of overlapping course content,” saying that sorting it all out will present a challenge to both teachers and students.

The new curriculum will give schools more options about which foreign languages they will offer, as well as reduce a focus on history. After being dropped from the initial draft, spoken English requirements have been restored in the final version.

As expected, the curriculum has a lot to say on the topic of technology. The catch-all category of ICT has been dropped and replaced by lessons in computing.

Also dropped are word-processing requirements for earlier grades. Instead, students will get an opportunity to create and test their own computer programs when they’re five years old.

The changes follow what the Department for Education (DfE) described as “unprecedented levels of interest” in the draft documents, published in February. The education secretary, Michael Gove, said the new courses would be introduced in state schools in England from 2014.

But Gove’s swift timetable and the need to redesign GCSE exams and key-stage criteria mean many pupils will still be taught using the existing curriculum, potentially creating headaches for schools and teachers having to bounce between old and new course content.

Prime Minister David Cameron expressed his support for the curriculum, calling it tough and rigorous and expressing confidence that it will work to improve the quality of education offered to students at traditional state schools. However, the curriculum will not be imposed on academies and free schools – Britain’s answer to American charters – while private schools have never been bound by any kind of national academic requirements at all.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “Michael Gove continues to be in too much of a rush and seems to care more about making changes than making sure they are the right ones for children.”
According to the DfE’s consultation document, primary school pupils in years 2 and 6 (ages seven and 11) will be taught maths, science and English using the old curriculum, because the key stage tests (Sats) to be held in summer 2015 will not have been revised in time to include the new curriculum.

Although parts of the curriculum will go into effect this fall, in some grades, students will be taught according to the old standards until at least 2015.