Save the curriculum from political meddling

Liberal Democrat David Laws has called for schools to be protected from the “whims of here-today, gone-tomorrow politicians”, leading to a better education system.

The Schools Minister has warned of the “corrosive impact” of self-interested political meddling in schools and claimed that parents and teachers would have much greater confidence in an education system with less “political interference”.

Mr Laws recognised that there is an important role for politicians in setting the overall strategy and financing of the school system, but the detail should be left to subject specialists. “Ministers float in and out of the department, often for quite short periods of time,” he said.

In what will be interpreted as a thinly veiled criticism of former Education Secretary Michael Gove, he claimed: “We’ve had in this Parliament parts of the English and history curriculum decided…on the whim of here-today, gone-tomorrow politicians down to the level of what works of English Literature should be taught.”

The BBC reports that Mr Laws wants an independent body to set the curriculum content and measure whether standards in schools are really improving or declining. The Education Standards Authority would “put subject experts in the driving seat rather than politicians”, prevent short-term political changes in the curriculum and provide an objective measure on standards to stop politicians “marking their own homework”.

However, Shadow Secretary of State for Education Tristram Hunt said: “The Liberal Democrats are entirely complicit in delivering this Government’s damaging schools policy. Nick Clegg’s party record shows that the Liberal Democrats cannot be trusted with raising standards in our schools.”

Do you think David Laws is right to attack political meddling in schools, and is an Education Standards Authority the solution?

14 thoughts on “Save the curriculum from political meddling

  1. At last! Perhaps the independent body could get shot of some of the ill conceived hair brained changes that have already been put in place because of the whims of Mr Give!

  2. Finally! One of the best reforms ever undertaken was severing the bank of England from political meddling and point scoring. Stability allows for growth. Teachers will invest more time into lessons if they know that the entire subject matter won’t be changed on a whim by a remote politician pandering to sections of the electorate who have never set foot in a school but feel that change is needed anyway. Why do they think that? Constant finger pointing towards teachers by self-serving politicians keeps the media fed with damaging stories that demotivate the incredibly hardworking majority and scare off future talent. Please create a non-political body to oversee this profession before further damage is done.

  3. I completely agree that education should be protected from the short-term interference of politicians interested in carving out a career or ensuring some kind of ‘legacy’. I would not trust any of them to mean what they say, especially 6 months before an election, and certainly not those proven turncoats the Lib-Dems: remember student fees! An organisation composed of educators and including classroom teachers, is definitely the way forward if we are to stop the rot. Far too much time, energy and money is spent serving the false ‘gods’ of ‘quantifying and measuring’ instead of those true ones of teaching and learning. Perhaps a correctly constituted Education Standards Authority could provide the continuity needed to finally ensure a decent education for all British schoolchildren.

  4. Quite agree. Curriculum should be decided by an authority which has some academic credentials independent of government, though responsible to government overall. I am a teacher who is struggling with the new primary curriculum and how it should be interpreted. One of the many issues is that it is merely a re-hash of existing content with the superficial idea of a theme attached. These links which are already acknowledged by most teachers and exploited to create links in knowledge – always have. Now though we have to release a set of standards which have been developed over time and have embedded themselves in the language of primary assessment. We have to invent another system…Meanwhile where I am working there are still two systems of assessment while changes are made.
    Does teaching young children have to be this complicated? Do teachers have to be distracted continually from the task of actually teaching children in the classroom. Soon we will be like the nurses…go into any ward in any hospital. Nurses are at a computer, not at the bedside. After 30 years of teaching I have to admit that the content of my teaching has never really changed. But the paperwork mountain has blossomed and grown. Have standards improved? Standards of what? Many would say no, and I have to agree. Why? Teachers have to spend hours at computers, shuffling paper…etc. Last on the list is…Oh yeah what am I going to teach today? Fortunately I am soon to retire. Though I still love the actual act of teaching, I do believe it’s time to tell the Emperor he has no clothes!

  5. When it comes to regulating business, the government are nothing but mice. But they are prepared to bend and distort education to the detriment of all its citizens, for the sake of minor political gains.

  6. I would like to see the Labour Party come out with proposals for an independent curriculum board to determine how best to educate students in future. Education is too important to be left to politicians. The board would be made up of practising teachers from all subjects. Not Ofsted, or Headteachers either. Maybe Advanced skills teachers would be the ideal. Then we would finally get a curriculum which suits the needs of students for the 21st century that is fit for purpose and not something which is changed at the whim of politicians who are looking backwards instead of forwards. There is plenty of research on evidenced based pedagogy existing at the moment. We need that to be the basis of how we approach teaching in this country.

  7. About time! It’s the single most disruptive and counter-productive thing education. You can almost smell the back from the fag packet at times. Gove in particular was laughable on this score but he wasn’t alone.

  8. David Laws comments confirm what I have thought for a for a long – education and health should be taken out of political wrangling. Only then will true development of practice happen. Anyone who works/has worked in education or health knows all too well that things come full circle depending on which political party is in power rather than due to evidence of what works and what doesn’t. If you want the best practitioners to stay in teaching (or health) then let them develop their practice from what they know works best for their children. By all means have a joint party committee guiding standards but take education (and health) out of the political agenda that wins/looses votes. Let decisions of whose going to lead the country be decided by which party is going to develop communities and social cohesion.

  9. I am pleased he has suggested this, it’s about time. I say that as an ordinary class teacher struggling to teach the new curriculum to year 5, we are now basically playing catch up particularly in Maths. You can’t just start a new curriculum for everyone, with much higher expectations without a significant period of grace. The children are failing before they start, as gaps in their learning have been falsely created. At the end of the last school year, they were attaining at an age appropriate level, when they returned to school in September they were suddenly behind. How does a teacher manage that? I am trying to fit 2 to 3 years learning into one year to get them ready for the new SATs, it is impossible.
    As for the SEN children, with one signature they are now several more years behind their peers, it is soul destroying for the children, their teachers and their parents. We can’t even prove progress anymore as they removed levels and replaced them with…. Wait for it? Nothing, just a mish mash of subjective opinions/ideas and a lot of people and companies trying to make a quick buck out of the confusion.

    If you must have a new curriculum ( not going to get into that) then it requires a staged introduction over several years, anyone with basic reasoning skills could work that out.

    What we have now is just setting everyone ( teachers and more importantly children) up to fail, Gove is hardly the most intelligent man in the world is he? Why should the education of British children be blighted by one man who knows nothing about education, has no knowledge of pedagogy and has no teaching qualifications?

    Yet, here we are with a mess, a mess one man created on a whim and it is a mess, the new minister knows it’s a mess, Cameron knows it’s a mess, at least this man has the guts to say so and offer some kind of sensible solution.

    We are all trying because we care about our children, the children we teach, we want them to achieve and succeed, but the effort and money that has been invested to try and make this work is staggering. Many teachers are buckling under the additional workload it has created, our workload was bad enough, now it’s beyond anything I have ever known. Myself and all the teachers in my school are now working at the very least 50+ hours a week. I have never known such poor morale in my profession ( it wasn’t that great to start with), it is frightening, and unsustainable. On top of that, we have all the new guidelines regarding SEN children, which basically puts the entire responsibility on the class teacher, yet more work.

    I hope this idea gains some supporters , because then we may be able to look forward to a period of stability in the British education system, something that is sorely needed.

  10. Couldn’t agree more. The details of what is to be taught, and how, must be in the hands of people who are experienced and experiencing it

  11. As an ex teacher myself I feel passionate about supporting teachers and helping them to have all the energy necessary to florish and be all they can be as respected members of a valued profession. Its a shame that many fantastic teachers feel demoralized after giving there all to their children by often unrealistic demands set by MPs who have no idea how all consuming the role is. Where would we be without the millions of dedicated people who give up a large proportion of their free time free of charge to offer children great teaching opportunities only to find that their best is never considered good enough!! By both MPs and ungrateful kids! Thankfully many lovely children do show appreciation too though and make it more worthwhile.

  12. This had to happen eventually! My only reservation is that, on past showing, there is likely to be an assumption that the children don’t need to have any input – for example, that the parents are the consumers of education, as the Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations put it at the conference I attended in 1977. I haven’t noticed this attitude change in over forty years (going back to the early 70s) but, without some unpressured input from school pupils, we have no chance of keeping up with the times and looking forward tot he future. Lisa’s comment above about “ungrateful kids” illustrates my point perfectly.

    So I’d add to the points to those already made above: in general, we need to show respect to the pupils we teach; we also need to extend that respect to soliciting their opinions on how well we are doing in our role as teachers. These two points will have a dramatic influence on how our pupils and the public at large feel about us, and will end the crisis in education by withdrawing the need for criticism felt by so many disenchanted ex-pupils.

    While Lisa indulges in the appreciation of her “many lovely children”, the rest of the profession can enjoy the appreciation of all their pupils. Respect for the pupils is all that stands in the way of receiving genuine respect and appreciation from them; every teacher has the opportunity to earn their own fan club, incorporating their pupils past and present.

  13. Unfortunately education is a political football and Mr Laws is one politician in one party who also has his own agenda in making this statement which if he really meant it – he could have fought to implement more vigorously when he had the chance. Too late for this parliament Mr Laws. I hope to hear more of this from you in the future so that like the revolving door approach you describe in the DFES your message doesn’t disappear as political circumstances change. If you do set out to make this a defining issue for you great. One statement is nothing in a campaign process , so I look forward to hearing more of this from you.

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