The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has missed a “real opportunity” to make the radical curriculum changes needed to give children skills for life, said the education union.
The government announced a shake-up to the secondary school education system in England last week, which will free about one-quarter of the school day to enable teachers to give more help to pupils struggling to master the basics in English and maths.
Ministers asked the QCA to review the curriculum to create flexibility for schools to provide ‘catch-up’ support in literacy and numeracy for teenagers who are struggling, while stretching those with particular talents and gifts in subjects.
But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said the new national curriculum fails to specify the wide range of skills that pupils need.
The association’s general secretary, Mary Bousted, said: “The QCA has missed an opportunity to radically overhaul the national curriculum. By hanging onto a subject-based curriculum, the QCA makes it hard for teachers to meet the differing learning styles and needs of individual children – to personalise their learning.
“The new national curriculum also fails to move away from the current over-emphasis on academic subjects and downplaying of vocational skills.
“What we really need is a national curriculum that specifies the wide range of skills pupils need to lead successful lives, and leaves the detail of the exact content to be decided by their school and teachers.”
But schools secretary Ed Balls has said more emphasis will be placed on teaching the basics, including reading, writing and maths, to equip pupils with the skills employers are looking for.
He said: “Every child should have a good grasp of grammar, spelling and arithmetic. They should also have wider skills that increasingly employers and universities demand, such as the ability to express themselves and think clearly and have a dynamic ‘can do’ attitude.”
Balls added that skills in financial capability, and language lessons in Mandarin and Urdu, would be added to the curriculum. Classic elements of the curriculum, such as Shakespeare, algebra, historic dates and the World Wars, would remain.
The new national curriculum follows the first major review of the curriculum since 2000. It will come into force from September 2008.