Senior Lecturer’s Petition Calls for Latest Gove Teaching Proposals to be Withdrawn

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Young Academic has today learnt that an expert in primary school teaching and curriculums from the University of East Anglia is calling for Michael Gove’s proposed new National Curriculum for Primary Schools in England to be withdrawn. In incredible education news, it seems that the teaching fraternity are less than impressed with Gove’s latest bout of proposals and will not take the situation lightly.

Sue Cox, a senior lecturer and researcher on the primary curriculum will deliver a petition of more than 2,000 signatures to the education secretary, with backing from the National Association of Primary Education (NAPE) and the Association for the Study of Primary Education (ASPE).

The petition says the present proposals demonstrate a lack of respect for the experience and expertise of the teaching profession, parents, carers and children themselves.

It adds to the tide of opposition that has risen over the past few months, with thousands of teachers, academics, parents, carers and the general public speaking out in criticism of the government’s proposals.

The period of consultation for the review of the National Curriculum has now closed but Ms Cox said the government needed to know that this had not put an end to the strong opposition to the plans.

She said: “The signatories of this petition demand change and believe that the proposed new National Curriculum for primary schools is not fit for children, teachers or for education in the 21st Century.

“The narrow and instrumental approach will fail children, who are actively developing their thinking and understanding. Children are motivated, curious, enquiring learners who need to be inspired by the curriculum. A curriculum cannot be reduced to a syllabus: it should embody principles of good education.”

The petition will be handed in by Sue Cox and educationalist and retired university lecturer Eric Hadley. It calls for the re-formulation of the curriculum to maintain successful learning and well-being for children and their teachers. It also urges the Department for Education to show greater respect for a wider range of stakeholders and their existing knowledge and expertise during this process.

The 2023 signatories, including teachers, parents, grandparents, educationalists, industrialists, HMI, university professors and other academics, claim it is not a curriculum that will raise standards. They believe the proposals do not take sufficient account of what is known about how children learn or allow sufficiently for individual differences.

Ms Cox added: “It may appear to be demanding but in many respects, it is superficial. There is an over-emphasis on factual knowledge, rather than collaborative, creative, higher order, disciplined thinking and reasoning.

“We are concerned that children will not be engaging in deep learning that meets their individual needs and challenges their thinking. Instead, the expectations are that they will perform in response to very specific demands. This will lead to failure and increased disadvantage for many children.”

The petition says the overly detailed and prescriptive content in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science will destroy possibilities for breadth and balance in the primary curriculum and that there will be insufficient room for other valued areas of learning.

NAPE chair John Coe has called for the withdrawal of the present proposals and the re-opening of discussion. He says that The Cambridge Primary Review, which commands the respect of practitioners, would be a good place to start.

He said: “The White Paper published in November 2010 stated with no equivocation that ‘We will review the National Curriculum, with the aim of reducing prescription and allowing schools to decide how to teach’. The prescription, in unprecedented detail, of the core programmes of study leaving all too little time for the foundation subjects is an absolute failure to implement this promise.”

The petition, which was posted on the campaigns website 38 Degrees, also raises concerns that the yet to be published assessment arrangements will be target driven. The signatories believe this will create a risk to children’s education and well-being. They have expressed concern about the lack of opportunity for simultaneous discussion of curriculum and assessment since the latter has a profound effect upon practice.

They also call for more respect to be shown to the way the National Curriculum has evolved since 1988 and what has been learned through the efforts and experience of teachers, children, researchers, educationalists and policy makers, with many signatories commenting on the lack of engagement with research and professional expertise.

Mr Coe added: “The most powerful consideration at the present time is the remarkable unity of views expressed by associations, groups and individuals that the proposals will damage the quality of primary school life and lead to a lowering of standards of achievement.

“It should be stressed that the opposition has not come simply from the unions who are in dispute with the government but from everyone, from universities to nursery schools. Researchers, teacher trainers, head teachers and teachers at every level are united. At the very least a democratically elected government must acknowledge the gulf which has opened up between ministers and the practice of education.”


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