Asked by: Richard P King, Youth and Schools Team, Oxfam Campaigns
Today’s policy environment presents significant opportunity for putting value into the school curriculum; so where should today’s visionary teachers and school leaders set their sights? A government intent on raising standards through relentless focus on outcomes may seem to limit space for innovation or creativity. Yet amidst this scrutiny, schools are being handed a great opportunity. Regardless of the politics, academisation and proposals over the national curriculum – with space for school-determined basic and local curricula – are part of a policy approach with the potential to put power and control firmly in the hands of schools themselves.
Visionary schools, able to embrace this opportunity, have a chance to step back, and ask a question: what do they value as a learning community? Is it just to produce young people who achieve high exam results? Or is it more than this? Do they want young people who value others? Who are socially, morally and politically aware? Who have the skills to actively embrace a fast paced, challenging, interconnected 21st century world? And if so, what sort of ethos and values does a school need, and what sort of curriculum is required to promote this effectively?
Some schools are taking this question seriously. Whether it be through adopting more innovative and holistic curriculum models such as the International Baccaluareate or RSA’s Opening Minds curriculum, or incorporating the values and principles of the Cooperative Schools model, these schools are embracing the opportunity greater freedom gives them to create a curriculum that meets these needs.
Such a curriculum delivers core knowledge and understanding, but through the lens of meaningful social and moral questions relevant to young people’s lives, and with space for outcome based skills development, engaging peers and the local community. Therefore by making knowledge meaningful, it can help raise standards, too – and reconnect educators to what education is for.