'Halve the curriculum to revive creativity in schools'

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The Independent Online

The national curriculum should be halved and a "reserve army" of parents and professionals brought into schools to bring back creative education and end the Government's testing mania, a leading think-tank said yesterday.

The compulsory curriculum should be reduced to allow all pupils to spend half their lessons learning through practical projects, with older secondary school pupils spending the time outside school in the work place or doing voluntary work, argued Tom Bentley, director of Demos.

The Government's drive to raise standards and the backlash against trendy teaching methods had forced creativity out of many schools.

"There has been a danger of throwing the creative baby out with the trendy teaching bath water in the drive to improve standards," he said.

Pupils should instead be taught practical and problem-solving skills by parents and skilled workers including designers, engineers and scientists who would have the same status as teachers and the power to set up their own schools, according to What Learning Needs, a report published yesterday.

The proposals would require a doubling of education spending, funded by a one-off tax on businesses plus a rise in income tax, Mr Bentley said.

Companies that gave staff time off to work as teachers should receive tax breaks and existing teachers would also only work part-time in schools.

Exams would no longer test pupils' recall of facts but should instead measure thinking and interpersonal skills. Pupils should help set their own goals and be assessed on how they have boosted their classmates' learning as well as their own.

"The testing mania needs to stop," Mr Bentley said. "It has meant that teachers are 'teaching to the test' instead of developing pupils' genuine abilities."

The proposals were dismissed by teaching unions as "not just nonsense but dangerous nonsense".

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "These are bizarre suggestions. It suggests that any Tom, Dick or Henrietta could just waltz into the classroom and be a good teacher. This is so far removed from reality that it's laughable."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, said: "Demos are good at coming up with theories which are of no value in practice. Parents can support their children's education but they cannot supplant teachers – that is why schools developed."