Heads split on education plan

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A HEADTEACHER has compared a government minster to a Dickensian villain in response to his plans to change the way children are taught.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced a review of the national curriculum, saying he wanted to give teachers the freedom to focus on facts and ‘essential knowledge’.

But Jackie Eames, headteacher of Batley Girls’ High School, who specialises in English and history, said the proposals reminded her of Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

The classic novel satirises a teacher, Mr Gradgrind, who forces his pupils to memorise the definitions of animals.

Mrs Eames said: “What really worries me is that Michael Gove seems to think that knowledge is power, but these kinds of facts are only meaningful when they are interpreted and explored.

“I think he is genuinely committed and he wants what’s best for children, but I think he is going about it the wrong way.”

But supporters of the changes are optimistic that the review will give schools greater freedom.

Lorraine Barker, principal of Mirfield Free Grammar School, said: “I welcome the proposed review because at present the national curriculum is too prescriptive and detailed.

“One reason we are becoming an academy is to enable us to decide our own curriculum but education is not just about curriculum. It is about the whole person. We are looking to promote inter-personal skills, creativity, talent and teamwork to ensure that our students are prepared for a future that none of us can predict.”

Mr Gove said last week that the current curriculum focuses too much on teaching methods instead of the content of what is taught.

He has asked a panel of five education experts to decide what should be on the new curriculum, specifying only that he would like to see more facts.

Mr Gove said: “Our review will examine the best school systems in the world and give us a world class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children should learn at what age.”

But his approach has also been criticised by the National Union of Teachers.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “There is absolutely no need for Michael Gove to throw out platitudes such as restoring ‘academic rigour’ to the national curriculum, as this is something that has never left it.

“While recognising that the curriculum is over prescriptive, the education secretary appears to be dictating not only which subjects are the most important but also what should be taught within them.”