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  1. National Curriculum Review SeminarWhere now? Andrew Pollard ASPE Oxford, 8th August 2012

  2. Intentions • Share an analysis of policy making • Review some issues debated within the Expert Panel • Speculate about future strategies

  3. Three contexts of policy making Richard Bowe and Stephen Ball with Ann Gold (1992) Reforming Education and Changing Schools. London: Routledge

  4. Three contexts of policy making We approach policy as a discourse, constituted of possibilities and impossibilities, tied to knowledge on the one hand and practice on the other. We see it as a set of claims about how the world should and might be, a matter of the `authoritative allocation of values'. They are also, as we conceive it, essentially contested.

  5. Three contexts of policy making We envisage three primary policy contexts, each context consisting of a number of arenas of action, some public, some private. These are: • the context of influence • the context of text production • the context of practice

  6. 1. The context of influence

  7. The context of influence This is where policy discourses are constructed and interested parties struggle to influence the definition and social purposes of education, what it means to be educated. The private arenas of influence are based upon social networks in and around the political parties, in and around Government and in and around the legislative process.

  8. The context of influence The formation of discourse is sometimes given support, sometimes challenged, by wider claims to influence in the public arenas of action, particularly in and through the mass media. In addition there are a set of more formal public arenas; committees, national bodies, representative groups which can be sites for the articulation of influence.

  9. The context of influence It is important to be aware of the considerable `capture' of influence by think tanks. But it is also vital to appreciate the ebb and flow in the fortunes of and the changes in personnel of the DFE, and to recognize the increasing `ministerialization' of policy initiation. This contrasts starkly with the virtual exclusion of union and local authority representatives from arenas of influence and the modest contribution from educational research.

  10. Michael Gove, speech to the National College, June 2010 • Unless we are guided by moral purpose in this coalition government then we will squander the goodwill the British people have, so generously, shown us. • And the ethical imperative of our education policy is quite simple - we have to make opportunity more equal. We have to overcome the deep, historically entrenched, factors which keep so many in poverty, which deprive so many of the chance to shape their own destiny, which have made us the sick man of Europe when it comes to social mobility. ....

  11. Michael Gove, speech to the National College, June 2010 • And the success of other nations in harnessing their intellectual capital is a function of their determination to develop world-beating education systems. Across the globe other nations are outpacing us - pulling ahead in international comparisons, driving innovation, changing their systems to give professionals more freedom to grow, adapt, improve and learn from each other. ....

  12. Michael Gove, speech to the National College, June 2010 • I want to use the evidence from those jurisdictions with the best-structured and most successful curricula – from Massachusetts to the Pacific Rim – to inform our curriculum development here. • I want to remove everything unnecessary from a curriculum that has been bent out of shape by the weight of material dumped there for political purposes. I want to prune the curriculum of over-prescriptive notions of how to teach and how to timetable. Instead, I want to arrive at a simple core, informed by the best international practice, which can act as a benchmark against which schools can measure themselves and parents ask meaningful and informed questions about progress.

  13. Nick Gibb, Reform conference, July 2010 • ‘Knowledge is the basic building block for a successful life. Without understanding the fundamental concepts of maths or science, it is impossible to properly comprehend huge areas of modern life. ... • These concepts must be taught. And they must be taught to everyone. Sadly, that is not always the case. ... • E D Hirsch writes that ‘ early inequity in the distribution of intellectual capital may be the single most important source of avoidable justice in a free society’. It is remedying that injustice that is the driving force behind this Government’s education reforms.

  14. Tim Oates Could do Better: Using international comparisons to refine the National Curriculum in England (Nov 2010) Conclusion: •  Analysis of high performing systems, when treated with sophistication and sensitivity, can be used for determining which content should be placed where in a revised National Curriculum. •  A well-defined and enhanced National Curriculum is a necessary but insufficient condition for ensuring that the performance of the English system approaches that of the leading nations – policy needs to be formulated in respect of other ‘control factors’such as teacher expertise, teaching quality, learning materials and inspection. •  A well-defined and enhanced National Curriculum – based on concepts, principles, fundamental operations and key knowledge - can lead to learning processes which are more focused on deep learning (fewer topics pursued to greater depth), and to assessment processes of greater validity and which have beneficial wash back into learning.

  15. Tim Oates Could do Better: Using international comparisons to refine the National Curriculum in England (Nov 2010) Understanding ‘Control Factors’ 1 curriculum content 2 assessment and qualifications 4 inspection 5 pedagogy 6 professional development 7 institutional development 8 institutional forms and structures 10 funding 11 governance 12 accountability arrangements 13 selection and gate-keeping to university and the workplace

  16. 2. Context of policy text production

  17. Context of policy text production While influence is often related to the articulation of narrow interests and dogmatic ideologies, policy texts are normally articulated in the language of general public good. Their appeal is based upon claims to popular (and populist) commonsense and political reason. Policy texts therefore represent policy.

  18. Context of policy text production These representations can take various forms: most obviously `official' legal texts and policy documents; also formally and informally produced commentaries which offer to `make sense of' the `official' texts. The media is important here; also the speeches by and public performances of relevant politicians and officials;

  19. Context of policy text production The texts which represent policy are not necessarily internally coherent or clear. Policy evolves in and through the texts that represent it, texts have to be read in relation to the time and the particular site of their production. They also have to be read with and against one another. The texts themselves are the outcome of struggle and compromise. What is at stake are attempts to control the meaning of policy through its representation.

  20. ‘Progress’ by October 2011 1. The presentation of programmes of study and attainment targets: We have advised that programmes of study and attainment targets, and the roles that they fulfil, should be distinct – and we understand that this will now be implemented.

  21. ‘Progress’ by October 2011 2. Pupil progression: The proposal that schools, particularly primary, should focus on maximising all pupils’ mastery of the essential curriculum could significantly reduce underachievement in the long-term. We recognise that this is a significant change and commend the efforts being made within the Department to prepare specific proposals.

  22. ‘Progress’ by October 2011 3. Structure of Key Stage 2: This four year stage covers a significant period of pupil development. National Curriculum requirements and school provision can be organised more appropriately if it is split into ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ Key Stages. We understand that this proposal has been accepted.

  23. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 • Educational aims: Clear specification of educational aims has a place in light-touch framing and accountability processes in a future education system in which schools are both more diverse and more autonomous. Such aims could underpin coherence between the national, basic and local elements of the school curriculum. If this potential is to be realised, further work on the structure, content and use of educational aims is now urgent.

  24. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 2. Subject knowledge: The Department has conducted an exercise in international comparison to identify ‘essential’ and ‘powerful forms’ of knowledge and is in a position to present this evidence in a public consultation. Consultation with subject experts in English, Mathematics and Science also took place during the Spring and early Summer, leading to the production of draft programmes of study. These have now been replaced by texts produced by others. This process has by-passed the Expert Panel as a whole and we are therefore not in a position to endorse the outcomes.

  25. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 3. Curricular breadth: Although both statute and international evidence support breadth, it appears possible that the status of Music and Art in the primary curriculum may be downgraded and that the lack of statutory breadth in the secondary curriculum to age 16 will continue. The major challenge of the curriculum review is how to reduce over-loading whilst also maintaining breadth. We believe that the solution lies in the rigorous identification of ‘essential knowledge’ whilst leaving schools to decide how to introduce this to pupils.

  26. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 4. Curricular constraint: Notwithstanding public commitments to free teachers to exercise more professional judgement, it now appears that the curriculum of core subjects may be specified year-on-year in primary rather than in key stages. In our view, this would be far too prescriptive for all schools and impractical to implement in small primary schools – of which there are many.

  27. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 5. Oral language development: We have advised that oral language development should be a significant strand within the English programme of study though all key stages and should build, in particular, on the provision which has been recommended by Clare Tickell for the Foundation Stage. However, practical work on this has not taken place.

  28. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 6. Transitions: Very little attention has been paid to how to achieve continuity of curricular and other learning experiences for pupils – in particular, for those progressing from the Early Years Foundation Stage into Key Stage 1. • You will be aware, of course, that most high performing countries begin their formal schooling somewhat later than we do (indeed, only 15% of all countries begin formal schooling by the age of 5). International practice thus suggests that we should consider how to extend good practice from the EYFS into Key Stage 1.

  29. ‘Points of concern’ in October 2011 • 7. Pace and legitimacy: The National Curriculum Review has been proceeding extremely quickly and has so far largely been an internal process managed by the Department. We have been concerned that the insights from the consultation, to which thousands of stakeholders contributed, appear to be treated lightly. • Our perception is that the use of evidence has been uneven and that progress at times has seemed erratic. In summary, we are concerned for the perceived legitimacy and quality of the review.

  30. 8. Principles for curriculum provision: AP/MJ with Michael Gove, October 2011 SOCIETY -------------------------- INDIVIDUALS Knowledge --------------------- Development Experience/Learning Curriculum Cf: Alan Blyth (1984) ‘enabling curriculum’

  31. 3. The context of practice

  32. The context of practice Policies are textual interventions but they also carry with them material constraints and possibilities. The responses to these texts have `real' consequences. The key point is that policy is not simply received and implemented within this arena - rather it is subject to interpretation and then `recreated'.

  33. The context of practice Practitioners do not confront policy texts as naive readers, they come with histories, with experience, with values and purposes of their own, they have vested interests in the meaning of policy. Policies will be interpreted differently as the histories, experiences, values, purposes and interests which make up any arena differ. The simple point is that policy writers cannot control the meanings of their texts. Parts of texts will be rejected, ignored, deliberately misunderstood, etc. Again, interpretation is a matter of struggle.

  34. Blog: What about the pupils? ‘Prescriptive influence’ of Hirsch ‘Crude design’ for curriculum reform Value of subject knowledge but ‘fatally flawed’ without considering needs of learners Year-on-year prescription in core, punitive inspection and tough new tests at 11 Threat to breadth and balance Who did what in writing the PoS?

  35. Nick Seaton, Campaign for Real Education At this rate it will probably be a decade and a half before the full benefits of any reforms (whether effective or not) are felt in employment . Can we afford to wait so long? Fortunately, it is perfectly feasible for 2 or 3 good primary/secondary teachers in each subject to produce, within 4 weeks, a list of recommended content that could (and should) be taught subject-by-subject each year. Arguments and discussions about the detail can be left until later.

  36. Blog: What about the pupils? ‘Freedoms’ of the School Curriculum? Needs of slower learners? High expectations pitched to create failure? Flexibility to meet children’s needs? Education as the interaction between knowledge and individual development – facilitated by teachers.

  37. Nick Seaton,Campaign for Real Education One further, vitally important step, is required. The members of the Expert Panel were almost certainly recommended by DfE officials. The education secretary should therefore call the DFE’s permanent secretary into their office and stipulate that, in future, any perceived subversion of ministerial aims or objectives by any DfE official will be subject to disciplinary action.

  38. The context of practice The policy process is one of complexity. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to control or predict policy effects. But different consequences do derive from particular interpretations in action. Practitioners will be influenced by the discursive context within which policies emerge. But the meanings of texts are rarely unequivocal – and creative readings can sometimes bring their own rewards.

  39. So what now? Today

  40. So what now? Today Strategic resistance – a battle for interpretation Who? Communication to build broad and diverse alliances? (employers, universities, parents, head and teacher organisations, researchers, media) What? Principled focus on key issues? (breadth, oracy, opportunities, learning, professional judgement?)

  41. So what now? Today Strategic resistance – a battle for interpretation How? Collate and use evidence and experience from UK and internationally? Build on the distributed and embedded strength of primary education to lobby MPs? Organise and collaborate across ASPE, NAPE, NPH, etc and the teacher associations?

  42. So what now? Tomorrow

  43. So what now? Tomorrow Frame the discourse for an alternative government Who? Maintain dialogue and alliances with stakeholders and mediators? What? Continue to refine evidence-informed principles for an effective system whilst retaining contextual flexibility?

  44. So what now? Tomorrow Frame the discourse for an alternative government Excellence Diversity Entitlement Learning Teaching (Research)

  45. 20 years back .... A broad consensus in English primary schools has emerged on the structural benefits of having a national curriculum. It is seen as providing for progression and continuity and, with careful design, it is seen as a potential source of coherence. Organisational benefits for teacher training and supply, continuous professional development, curriculum development, parental participation, teacher accountability and national monitoring of educational standards are accepted.

  46. 20 years back .... Unfortunately though, the introduction of the National Curriculum into England was seriously compromised because of the ways in which professionally committed teachers were alienated. Rather than providing a legislative framework through which they could offer and fulfill their professional commitment, the reforms introduced constraint and regulation into almost every area of teachers' work. Yet it seems most unlikely that education standards can rise without the whole-hearted commitment of teachers, working to support pupils' learning.

  47. 20 years forward ..... Depressing in terms of English state policy? But what is possible? Scotland is encouraging as are many other countries internationally. In England, many schools provide principled, innovative and value-based education.

  48. Where now? Hang on in there in principled and evidence-informed ways, but collaborate, organise and engage for the long term Promote a new, future-orientated discourse for contemporary society