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Education Education

Ensure all children have access to an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum

Last updated: 10:13am 5 February 2019

We will ensure all children have access to an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

This policy addresses two challenges faced by all governments: how to ensure the curriculum, what children are taught, is fit for purpose; and how to ensure children have “access” to that curriculum.

The national curriculum (see links below) was introduced in 1988, removing control over what should be taught in state schools from teachers, and placing the responsibility with politicians. In this way, it was hoped that no matter where you went to school, you would not miss out on an education that prepared you well for later life.

The government put together a new national curriculum, the majority of which came into force in 2014. Under this, the government promised to streamline the curriculum, making space for teachers to have a greater say in what they teach. The government stated it would not tell teachers how to teach, and would instead only ensure that the curriculum includes “the essential knowledge and skills which every child should master”.

To decide what should be in the new curriculum, the government appointed a panel of education experts. It’s worth mentioning that there is a fair amount of debate around this approach: some believe teachers alone are best placed to make those decisions; others disagree, arguing that politicians should retain control over setting the national curriculum.

The government is also continuing with a programme of converting state schools into academies, which have greater freedom over setting their own curriculum. So it is arguable that the importance of the national curriculum, and government influence over “access” to “an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum”, is actually diminishing. This adds to the challenge of tracking this policy.

In light of the seemingly endless debate over the best approach to providing a good education, and recognising that work has been done, we’re going to rank it as ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates!

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