David Laws calls for ministers to stop meddling in the content of the curriculum


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The Independent Online

It was like manna from heaven to hear David Laws's call to prevent ministers from meddling in the content of the curriculum and determining whether standards have improved in the classroom. The schools minister has proposed a new, independent body to oversee content and standards.

It makes me sick whenever I receive a missive on behalf of the Government, still saying that this or that policy has been introduced by it to sort out the mess left by the previous Labour government. Likewise, when Labour attacks some government initiative as being evidence of David Cameron's abandonment of his policy to improve standards in schools.

As a journalist, I don't feel comfortably quoting either of them because it feels like you'd be failing in your main duty: to educate the public. But Laws saying that the new body will stop politicians from "marking their own homework" and it happening are two different things. I cannot see any future Education Secretary foregoing the opportunity to mention that he or she might just have been responsible for the magnificent reduction in school exclusions.

What we would have, though, is independent evidence as to why the improvement had come about. The only question, though, is who appoints the independent experts.

The line that most appealed to me in last week's report from the Sutton Trust education charity about the best teaching methods is the suggestion that anger can be better than lavish praise.

The rationale is that, in praising struggling pupils for their work, you may sow the seeds in their minds that not much should be expected of them. I'd hate to see the employment of hundreds of Basil Fawlty-style teachers screaming at their pupils as if they were his Spanish waiter, Manuel.

Let us hope this is one suggestion our politicians do not seize on as a panacea.