Written statement to Parliament

Education reform: schools

Education Secretary Michael Gove sets out plans for the national curriculum.

On 7 February this year, I made a statement outlining the next stage in our programme of raising standards in schools. I outlined draft programmes of study for a revised national curriculum, a new approach to qualifications for secondary school students and also a new and fairer way of holding schools to account for the quality of their teaching.

No national curriculum can be modernised without paying close attention to what’s been happening in education internationally.

Officials in the Department for Education have spent years examining and analysing the curricula used in the world’s most successful school systems such as Hong Kong, Massachusetts, Singapore and Finland.

Informed by that work and in consultation with subject experts and teachers, the department produced a draft revised national curriculum, which we put out for public consultation 5 months ago.

We have given all the submissions we received during the consultation period close and careful consideration and today we are publishing a summary of the comments received and the government’s response.

We are also publishing a revised national curriculum framework for all subjects except key stage 4 English, mathematics and science.

Copies of each of these documents have been placed in the library of the house. A consultation on key stage 4 English, mathematics and science will follow in the autumn, once decisions on GCSE content for those subjects have been taken.

The publication of our proposals provoked a vigorous and valuable national debate on what is, and what should be, taught in our schools. We have welcomed this debate.

It is right that every member of society should care about the content of the national curriculum, not only because it helps to define the ambitions that we set for our young people, but because of what it says about the knowledge that we, as a society, think it is essential that we should pass down from one generation to the next.

The updated national curriculum framework that we are publishing today features a number of revisions to the draft made on the basis of evidence and arguments presented to us during the consultation period. In particular we have revised the draft programmes of study for design and technology to ensure that they sufficiently reflect our aspirations that it should be a rigorous and forward-looking subject that will set children on a path to be the next generation of designers and engineers.

We have also revised the programmes of study for history. We have given teachers a greater level of flexibility over how to structure lessons and we have increased the coverage of world history, while also requiring all children to be taught the essential narrative of this country’s past.

Other significant changes include the inclusion of a stronger emphasis on vocabulary development in the programmes of study for English and greater flexibility in the choice of foreign languages which primary schools will now be required to teach. And perhaps the most significant change of all is the replacement of ICT with computing. Instead of just learning to use programmes created by others, it is vital that children learn to create their own programmes.

These changes will reinforce our drive to raise standards in our schools.

They will ensure that the new national curriculum provides a rigorous basis for teaching, provides a benchmark for all schools to improve their performance, and gives children and parents a better guarantee that every student will acquire the knowledge to succeed in the modern world.

Having confirmed our intentions for the new national curriculum we are, in accordance with the legislation that underpins it, commencing a one month consultation on the legislative order which will give it statutory effect. Subject to the outcome of that consultation, we intend to finalise the new national curriculum this autumn so that schools have a year to prepare to teach it from September 2014.

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