The curriculum in secondary education in England has been relatively stable over the last couple of years (notwithstanding Covid-related disruption), as the reforms of the previous decade have become embedded. ASCL broadly welcomed the changes made to the national curriculum and to qualifications in 2014. The concept of powerful disciplinary knowledge, alongside transferable life skills and personal development, is key to social mobility and social justice. A majority of secondary schools inspected by Ofsted since the pandemic have been judged as ‘good’ for the quality of their education.
However, the current national curriculum is over-crowded, with not enough time to contextualise or allow for local needs, or other important topics. This is compounded by the key secondary accountability metrics – Progress 8, Attainment 8 and Ebacc entry – which focus on a narrow range of subjects. At a time of considerable financial pressure on schools, this has meant an inevitable narrowing of the curriculum in some settings.
GCSEs and other level 2 qualifications work relatively well in enabling many students to demonstrate what they know and can do by the end of secondary education, and in helping schools, colleges and employers ensure students are on the right courses for further study.
However, we are deeply concerned about the third of students who do not achieve a Grade 4 ‘standard pass’ in English and maths at the end of secondary school. The chances of these students achieving a pass grade by resitting post-16 is very small. Much greater thought needs to be given to these students. The ‘Forgotten Third
’ inquiry mentioned above proposed a possible way forward.
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