Reflections on the First Four Years
Four years on and it is time to draw the first conclusions about the National Curriculum. It will be some time before much that is definitive is said beyond the fact that the principles are now largely unchallenged. Debate centres on detail: no cries for abolition are heard, even from Tim Brighouse! The contributors give assessment from a range of viewpoints which will assist those coping now and no doubt those who will study the nineties in retrospect. The purpose of this chapter is to set the context in which the revolution has taken place; this entails a look at the other changes which have coincided, some by design, many, one suspects, by accident. There are many stables in the Department for Education, but few interconnecting doors. Those of us who have striven to flesh out political assurances that the National Curriculum, TVEI and GCSE were uniquely compatible have cause to smile — albeit between clenched teeth. Currently, the thrust towards specialization of schools sits uncomfortably with the concept of a truly National Curriculum, and with entitlement. The National Curriculum was intended to be relevant in a sense which made academic and vocational GCSEs and so on redundant. It is worth looking back at its genesis before attempting to assess its achievements in terms of relevance, standards, progression, differentiation, entitlement and the rest.