New curriculum - crystal ball gazing
1 Sept 2014
Yes, it's the first day of the new curriculum.
Poor old Michael Gove. All that hard work to make his mark on the curriculum and he's kicked out before it makes it into schools. Before it makes it into state schools, that is. By which we mean local authority state schools - an ever-declining proportion of schools nationally, thanks to his other policies.
Why did he go? Was it the comment about the "preposterous" number of Etonians in David Cameron's inner cabinet, perhaps? His replacement at least didn't go there, being female and everything (she went to Surbiton: £5k per term). She's called Nicky Morgan, by the way.
Mrs Morgan says she isn't "a crystal ball gazer" - good news: hopefully no more changes - and sees her duty as secretary of state "to implement Michael Gove's plans" - bad news: no U-turns planned. Unlike in her previous position when, as equalities minister, she voted against gay marriage, but which she now says "is great". Since moving to education, she's been rather quiet, apart from announcing the fact that funding would be removed from "extremist nurseries" - not exactly Earth-shattering policy.
So, can we expect a quiet few months, letting the new curriculum bed in, without fear of any further reforms pulling the rug, moving the goal posts or muddying the waters? At secondary level, we have a bit of a lull before the new GCSEs and A-levels have to be delivered, and at primary the old curriculum is still dribbling out. However, the big change coming this year won't be announced and it won't come with any support or advice from the DfE or Ofsted, apparently. So how will we find out about it?
Answer: We already have - supposedly! The issue is: how will you measure progress? If schools' answer is to stick to national curriculum levels, all they're doing is delaying the inevitable, since the DfE doesn't expect this to be appropriate in a couple of years' time. Reasonably, since levels relate to a curriculum that no longer exists; plus, more importantly, they can't measure progress from the appropriate baselines (reception tests or KS2 scaled SAT scores).
However, without levels, and in the absence of any other progress indicators, schools will have to devise their own methods to monitor progress - and to be able to convince Ofsted that they are doing so effectively. Currently, assessment systems tend to monitor attainment and then at department level or school level, someone checks that the whole cohort is making adequate progress.
BUT: when the new floor standards come into force this will not be enough. The progress of each student suddenly becomes important - schools will be trying to make that everyone makes as much progress as possible, not just those near level 4/5 or grade D/C boundaries for example. Imagine the effort schools currently make for these students extended across all students - that's a huge change which schools will need to make.
Schools haven't yet come to terms with the need to change from attainment to progress, partly because they think they already monitor progress, but it's not true, not in the new, floor-standard-related meaning of the word.
There is one (small?) item of support scheduled for this term: end of key stage descriptors, but these will not be comparable with NC levels - there will be just one for each subject and key stage, so not enough to build a new assessment scheme around, meaning schools will have to start from scratch and build their own.
The Assessment Innovation Fund winners, 10 schools who have already made a good start, apparently, seem largely to have had little impact as yet and most of their systems seem to look at mastery curriculum rather than progress. Perhaps the AIF fund judges hadn't grasped the progress idea either.
One thing Michael Gove will be able to see in his crystal ball for this year (we assume he took it with him, since Nicky Morgan won't be wanting it) is teachers working like stink to implement the changes he instigating while planning for those yet to come into play.
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