The secret curriculum
Nov 30, 2007
Bishop Hill in Education

The Scottish 5-14 curriculum is much less prescriptive than the English National Curriculum. Instead of defining in gory detail exactly what is taught, central government in Edinburgh sets out to define what children should be acheiving and how schools should teach. But the actual content they teach is only defined in rather broad terms. The detail is, by and large, left to schools to decide.This seems to be rather better than the way things are done in England.

Or perhaps not.

Concerned by an apparent lack of history being studied, I asked at my children's school for a copy of the curriculum they were working to. Some weeks later I received a copy of some Scottish Executive information about the kind of children they hoped that schools would be turning out, and a copy of the themes around which the coursework would be based. The details for this term, by class,  are reproduced below.


Now to my untutored eye, this doesn't look anything like a curriculum. It looks like a series of pages selected at random from a tabloid newspaper. There's lots of environmentalism. There's no history. There's lots of surrogate parenthood. There's multiculturalism and perhaps some EU propaganda but apparently, no maths.

Now I know for a fact that there is maths being taught because I hear it from the children at the end of the day. Confused, I went back to the school again to find out what the story was. There must be more to it than this.

The answer is that there is more to it. The teachers apparently create plans based on the themes above, setting out exactly what it is they are going to teach in each class. "They're hanging lots of different subjects off each theme". Which sounds very interesting. Maybe it's OK, there's a systematic approach lurking there, unseen behind a bland list of themes.

Big problem. I'm not allowed to see the teaching plans. That's right, folks:

I'm not allowed to see what my children are being taught.

I'm paying thousands of pounds a year in return for which the state is going to provide my children with an education. And they won't tell me what the hell it is they're teaching them.

And beyond that, I don't know what to say.


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