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National curriculum reform document

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/n/national%20curriculum%20consultation%20document%20070213.pdf

I've just been reading through the government document on reform of the national curriculum for England. The document is open to consultation until September. The key areas for language teachers are:

  • MFL will be compulsory at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3
  • MFL will not be compulsory at KS4.

Some teachers may be disappointed by one or both of these points.

On the face of it, compulsion at KS2 should raise the profile of languages and bring about a welcome injection of commitment and renewal, but for the policy to be successful there will need to be considerable investment in training. It is unlikely this will be provided, so I find it hard to rejoice.

As for KS4, I am a little surprised that we shall not see compulsion, but the government has taken the view that the EBacc accountability measure should be enough to shore up numbers of students taking languages at KS4. It remains to be seen how seriously the EBacc measure will be taken, given the announcement that there will be two other accountability measures for league tables: C passes at English and maths and the average GCSE point score over 8 subjects. My initial hunch would be that the latter measure will become the default one. We shall see. Ultimately it looks like Michael Gove's commitment to languages is not total, but personally I welcome the realism he is showing.

As for the document generally, I note the following statement; "The Expert Panel recommended that curriculum aims be developed to ensure coherence across the school system." But over half of English secondaries (academies and free schools) have the "freedom to depart" from the national curriculum, on the basis that they are state-funded independent schools. This seems to be where ideology comes into conflict with the laudable aim of having a consistent curriculum across the country.

No doubt nearly all schools, whatever their governance, will stick pretty closely to the national curriculum, just as most independent schools do now. After all, schools teach to exams and these will reflect the national curriculum. So talk of "freedom to depart" from the curriculum ends up sounding like a sop to free market ideology.

Overall, the language teaching community may feel at best lukewarm about the latest reform.


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