The Government has revealed its long awaited revised draft National Curriculum, setting out what schools in England still maintained by their respective local authority must teach. The status of the National Curriculum has changed in recent years, as most Academy schools do not have to follow it. However, the document continues to have a significant impact on what is taught in the education system, including at institutions not compelled to follow it.
Unexpectedly, the new draft Curriculum, which was published last Friday (Feb 8th), proposes to retain Citizenship at Key Stages 3 and 4. The Government’s National Curriculum review ‘Expert Panel’ previously recommended that Citizenship be excluded from the compulsory Curriculum altogether.
The draft document affirms that schools are required to provide sex education to pupils in secondary education (as part of Science), but continues to offers less information on the teaching of sex education than in the current National Curriculum. Last summer Accord wrote to the Government to express its concern at the cursory provision of sex education in an earlier draft of the government’s proposed Science curriculum, a situation made worse as the Government had also previously ruled out adding to the National Curriculum Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE), which includes Sex and Relationships Education. However, the latest draft document proposes that financial education, usually provided as part of PSHE, be included in the new slim downed Citizenship.
The slimmed down draft curriculum also affirms that all state funded schools are required to make provision for a daily act of Collective Worship and to teach Religious Education (RE) to pupils at every Key Stage. However, it contains no information on school’s provision in these areas.
The Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said ‘While the retention of Citizenship is to be welcomed, the Government has so far side stepped the challenge of revisiting the burning question of school assemblies, which need urgent reform given that Collective Worship is ignored by so many schools, while RE still operate in an unsatisfactory framework, allowing schools to avoid teaching the inclusive syllabus that would best prepare young people for life in our increasingly diverse society. We urge the Government to give these two areas its attention.’
A poll released by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) last September indicated that 28% of schools were not adhering to their legal commitments with regard to the provision of RE at Key Stage Four, up from 28% when NATRE polled the same question in 2011.
The poll ‘Worship in Schools’ conducted in July 2011 by Com Res for the BBC suggested that only 28% of children took part in a daily act of Collective Worship at their school.
The current SRE provision in the UK lags behind that of many developed countries. A 2007 survey by the UK Youth parliament found that 61 per cent of boys and 70 per cent of girls aged over 17 reported not receiving any information at school about personal relationships. Meanwhile, the report Sex and Relationship Education: Views from teachers, parents and governors (2010) found that 90% of parents thought schools should be involved in providing SRE, but that 80% of teachers do not feel sufficiently well trained and confident to talk about SRE, only 9% of school leaders rated the teaching materials available to them as ‘very useful’, and more than one in four school leaders rated the current provision of SRE in schools in preparing children for the future as ‘not well’ or ‘not at all well’.