Bored pupils will play truant from school if Education Secretary Michael Gove goes ahead with his planned new “back to basics” national curriculum, teachers warned today.
The new syllabus was described as “Gradgrind Gove’s pub quiz curriculum” by one teachers’ leader at the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference.
Delegates overwhelmingly passed a motion warning the plans were a “reactionary step backwards”, adding: “Creativity and enjoyment at school will be reduced, thus alienating young people and leading to more school absence.”
Under the plans – out for consultation – Mr Gove wants children to learn their 12 times table and recite poetry by the age of nine and learn about key dates in British history in chronological order. He also wants an emphasis on spelling, grammar and punctuation and children to be taught to read through phonics.
Alex Kenny, from the union’s executive – the man who made the Gradgrind remark – said the plans were “high on content and low on skills”. He added that earlier legislation enacting the national curriculum had specifically barred any Secretary of State from prescribing how teachers should teach, adding: “I’m tempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on Michael Gove for crimes against the state.”
Teachers’ concerns follow a letter signed by 100 leading academics and sent to The Independent warning that the proposals would lead to a “dumbing down” of standards in schools.
Anne Swift, also from the union’s executive, told the conference in Liverpool that her school had staged a Victorian day to celebrate its 150th anniversary, echoing Mr Kenny’s Dickensian theme by adding that if the proposals went ahead “it will be Victorian day every day with a test every week to check that the empty vessels are filling up with facts, facts and more facts – ready for the tests, tests and more tests”.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said the union’s concerns “could not be further from the truth”, adding: “The draft national curriculum is challenging and ambitious and will give every child the broad and balanced curriculum they need to fulfil their potential.”
Meanwhile, delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers yesterday joined the NUT in backing a rolling programme of strike action starting this summer to protest about curbs to teachers’ pay.
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