chapter  2
16 Pages

Teachers and the National Curriculum: Learning to Love It?

ByMichael Barber

There is a famous tale told by R.A. Butler in his memoirs. In offering him the post of President of the Board of Education, Churchill urged, 'I should be grateful if you could introduce a note of patriotism into the schools . . . Tell the children that Wolfe won Quebec'. Butler hesitated. This was not the sort of thing Presidents of the Board of Education did. 'I don't mean by instruction' explained Churchill, 'but by example'. This appears to have been the only curriculum-related instruction issued by the Prime Minister of the most overtly interventionist Government of the twentieth century. Fifty years on, a Government which claims to have spent a decade rolling back the frontiers of the state is not only prescribing in detail what should be taught and how it should be assessed, it is also exercising its powers to intervene in response to short-term political considerations. Viewed from the broad historical perspective, this is richly ironic. More importantly, it is also a cause of continuing confusion and uncertainty among teachers. Whether or not they have been persuaded that the National Curriculum of today is a good thing (and there is evidence that broadly they have), their commitment is tempered by the fear of intervention and change of direction tomorrow.