The framework for the new national curriculum has just been published and I want to focus on two of its main recommendations.
First is that key stage three will shrink from the first three to the first two years of secondary education – which I welcome. At Neville Lovett we already offer this because it allows for a more personalised curriculum in the final three years, and also means some students can start their A-levels earlier.
I’m less comfortable with the recommendation that history, geography and languages be made compulsory up to the age of 16.
In theory I have no problem with the idea – I come from France where these subjects are part of the assessment for 16-year-olds. Geography develops analytical, problem-solving and decision-making skills, and history demands intellectual rigour and independent minds.
But my concern is that success in learning a language is dependent on good literacy skills – and it is literacy that should be the priority.
I have practical concerns as well. If history and geography become compulsory, all schools will have to find extra staff to teach them.
It is unlikely that there will be enough trainees to satisfy demand and it will place considerable strain on already stretched budgets.
But finally there is something that stands out when I consider the recommendations, which is they fail to resolve a key issue for me – that we are behind other countries when it comes to reading, maths and science.
Education secretary Michael Gove is right to point to international school league tables to show England’s standing has ‘deteriorated significantly’ but I suspect we will have to do rather more than what the framework proposes to join high-achieving nations.
I look forward to further consultation and discussion on the framework. With such important issues at stake, I would prefer delay to error...