New National Curriculum for England a ‘missed opportunity’

September 13, 2013

crayon-rainbowThe Department for Education has this week published the new National Curriculum for all subjects, excluding English, Maths and Science at Key Stage 4. The new Curriculum is the product of a review process lasting over two and half years and it will take effect from September 2014. All state schools in England that are maintained by their local authority will have to follow it, while many other state funded and also private schools are likely to be guided by it.

Few changes have been made to the Curriculum since the Government published its final draft in April this year. Neither RE or PSHE have been added to the new Curriculum, while most subject matter in Citizenship education has been removed altogether. Furthermore, the sex education element of Science – the only kind of Sex and Relationships Education that the Curriculum prescribes – has been made much less prescriptive.

The Accord Coalition made repeated submissions throughout the review process and called for flexible syllabi for Religious Education (RE) and Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education to be incorporated. PSHE does not have to be taught in schools, while most Academy and faith schools choose what they teach in RE for themselves, meaning they can provide RE that is narrow and in the case of faith schools also confessional.

In the later stages of the review process Accord made detailed recommendations about the wording of Curriculum, urging both outside and as part of the formal consultation process that the guidance on the sex education element of Science to be made much stronger. Accord also unsuccessfully argued that greater encouragement should be offered to schools to use assemblies to forge shared values.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘The new Curriculum is a missed opportunity. It fails to guarantee pupils an entitlement to a core education that teaches them about the range of beliefs and challenges of living in a mixed belief society. Meanwhile, it will also hinder teaching around sex education.

‘Puberty is included, but teachers are effectively discouraged from teaching about hormones and how reproduction occurs. Children and young people should be taught about how their bodies work, sexual health, risks they may face and how to seek and obtain help. Taken together however the provision of sex education in the new Curriculum is cursory and a regression on what was there before.

‘The state funded school sector is being giving greater freedom and autonomy, but so it should also follow that there are some safeguards in place, so as to help ensure freedoms are not misused. Sadly however the new Curriculum makes it easier for schools wishing to pursue narrow agendas and delay pupils receiving information around human reproduction to do so.

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