Education: Curriculum, Exam and Accountability Reform — Statement
Lord Nash (Conservative)
"Mr Speaker, with your permission, I should like to make a Statement on the future of qualifications, school league tables and the national curriculum.
Last September we outlined plans for changes to GCSE qualifications designed to address the grade inflation, dumbing down and loss of rigour in those examinations. We have consulted on these proposals and there is now consensus that the system needs to change. But one of the proposals I put forward was a bridge too far. My idea that we end the competition between exam boards to offer GCSEs in core academic qualifications and have just one-wholly new-exam in each subject was just one reform too many at this time.
The exam regulator Ofqual, which has done such a great job in recent months upholding standards, was clear that there were significant risks in trying both to strengthen qualifications and end competition in a large part of the exams market. So I have decided not to make the best the enemy of the good and I will not proceed with plans to have a single exam board offering a new exam in each academic subject. Instead, we will concentrate on reforming existing GCSEs along the lines we put forward in September, because there is consensus that the exams and qualification system we inherited was broken.
Our first set of reforms was to vocational qualifications. They were allowed to become less rigorous options under the previous Government. Alison Wolf's report outlined how to improve the quality of vocational courses and expand work experience. It secured near universal support. It will soon all be done. We are also reforming apprenticeships. Under the previous Government the currency of apprenticeships was devalued alongside every other qualification. The Richard report on apprenticeship reform will restore rigour, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has explained so powerfully.
We are reforming A-levels. Schools and universities were unhappy that constant assessment and modularisation got in the way of proper learning. So we are reforming those exams with the help of school and university leaders. GCSEs will now also be reformed in a similar fashion. The qualifications should be linear, with all assessments normally taken at the end of the course. Examinations will test extended writing in subjects such as English and history, have fewer bite-sized and overly structured questions, and in mathematics and science there should be a greater emphasis on quantitative problem-solving. Internal assessment and the use of exam aids will be kept to a minimum and used only where there is a compelling case to do so, to provide for effective and deep assessment of the specified curriculum content.
Importantly, the new GCSEs will be universal qualifications and I expect the same proportion of pupils to sit them as now. This is something we believe the vast majority of children with a good education should be able to achieve. But reformed GCSEs will no longer set an artificial cap on how much pupils can achieve by forcing students to choose between higher and foundation tiers. Reformed GCSEs should allow students to access any grade while enabling high-quality assessment at all levels. The appropriate approach to assessment will vary between subjects and a range of solutions may come forward; for example, extension papers offering access to higher grades alongside a common core. There should be no disincentive for schools to give an open choice of papers to their pupils.
I have asked Ofqual to ensure we have new GCSEs in the core academic subjects of English, maths, the sciences, history and geography ready for teaching in 2015. These proposals will, I believe, achieve a swift and significant rise in standards, right across the country-equipping far more young people with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their full potential.
Reforming qualifications alone is not enough to ensure higher standards for every child. We also need to reform how schools are graded to encourage higher expectations for every student. Existing league tables have focused almost exclusively on how many children achieve a C pass in five GCSEs including English and maths. Yet this deceptively simple measure contains three perverse incentives: it encourages schools to choose exams based on how easy they are to pass, rather than how valuable they are to the student; it causes a narrow concentration on just five subjects, instead of a broad curriculum; and it focuses teachers' time and energy too closely on just those pupils on the C/D borderline, at the expense of their higher or lower-achieving peers.
So today I am proposing a more balanced and meaningful accountability system, with two new measures: the percentage of pupils in each school reaching an attainment threshold in the vital core subjects of English and maths; and an average point score showing how much progress every student makes between key stage 2 and key stage 4. The average point score measure will reflect pupils' achievement across a wide range of eight subjects. As well as English and maths, it will measure how well pupils perform in at least three subjects from the English baccalaureate-sciences, history, geography, languages and computer science-and in three additional subjects, whether those are arts subjects, academic subjects or high-quality vocational qualifications. This measure will incentivise schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, with high-quality teaching and high achievement across the board. It will also affirm the importance of every child enjoying the opportunity to pursue the English baccalaureate subjects. By measuring average point scores rather than a single cut-off point, the new measure will also ensure that the achievement of all students is recognised equally, including both low attainers and high fliers.
Alongside today's proposed changes to exams and league tables we are also publishing our proposals for the new national curriculum in England. Over the past two years we have examined and analysed the curricula used in the world's most successful school systems, in jurisdictions such as Hong Kong, Massachusetts and Singapore. We have combined the best elements of their curricula with some of the most impressive practice from schools in this country, and the result is published today-a new draft national curriculum for the 21st century which embodies high expectations in every subject.
We are determined to give every child, regardless of background, a broad and balanced education, so that by the time their compulsory education is complete they will be well equipped for further study, future employment and adult life. All of the current national curriculum subjects will be retained at both primary and secondary levels, with the important addition of foreign languages, to be taught in key stage 2.
Our new draft programmes of study in core subjects are both challenging and ambitious, focusing tightly on the fundamental building blocks of study, so that every child has the knowledge and understanding to succeed. A key principle of our reforms is that the statutory national curriculum should form only part of the school curriculum, not its entirety. Each individual school should have the freedom to shape the whole curriculum to their particular pupils' aspirations and priorities-a freedom already enjoyed by the growing numbers of academies and free schools as well as, of course, by schools in the independent sector.
Programmes of study in almost all subjects-other than primary English, mathematics and science-have been significantly slimmed down. We have specifically stripped out unnecessary prescription about how to teach and concentrated only on the essential knowledge and skills which every child should master.
In maths-learning from east Asia-there is a stronger emphasis on arithmetic and more demanding content in fractions, decimals and percentages, to build solid foundations for algebra. In the sciences there is rigorous detail on the key scientific processes from evolution to energy. In English there is more clarity on spelling, punctuation and grammar, as well as a new emphasis on the great works of the literary canon, and in foreign languages there will be a new stress on learning proper grammatical structures and practising translation.
In geography there is an emphasis on locational knowledge-using maps and locating key geographical features, from capital cities to the world's great rivers. In history there is a clear narrative of British progress, with a proper emphasis on heroes and heroines from our past. In art and design there is a stronger emphasis on painting and drawing skills, in music a balance between performance and appreciation. We have replaced the old ICT curriculum with a new computing curriculum, with help from Google, Facebook, and some of Britain's most brilliant computer scientists, and we have included rigorous computer science GCSEs in the English baccalaureate.
With sharper accountability, a more ambitious curriculum, and world class qualifications, I believe we can create an education system which can compete with the best in the world; a system which gives every young person, regardless of background, the high-quality education, high aspirations and high achievement they need and deserve".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating this Statement today. The Statement implies that the reason for this embarrassing U-turn is because the single exam system was found to be impractical. However, as the noble Lord is fairly new to his brief, he may not have been aware of the more fundamental cause for concern that was building up across this House and among head teachers, parents, employers and academics, about the broader issues raised by the EBacc.
Concern was expressed about the way the proposals were conceived and announced in the first place-without any consultation, looking for easy headlines rather than a strategy for genuine change. There were concerns at the speed with which Michael Gove proposed to implement the changes, even leading the Tory-led Education Select Committee to condemn the timetable as "too much, too fast". Employers were concerned that the EBacc placed no value on subjects critical to our future economic competitiveness, such as design and technology, construction and engineering. Business leaders, such as the CBI, were also concerned that the proposals took no account of the rise in school leaving age and risked,
"putting young people into a 'holding pattern' for five terms, when they should be striving for a high standard at 18".
The arts world was concerned that the creative subjects, such as art, design, drama and music, had been sidelined, despite the incredible value that our creative sector brings to the UK economy. Indeed, for a cohort of children this announcement is already too late, because 15% of schools have already dropped one or more arts subject in anticipation of the original 2015 changes.
Teachers and parents were concerned that the new EBacc exams would create a two-tier system, dividing pupils into winners and losers at age 16, and resulting in many pupils leaving schools with a so-called certificate of achievement which would have had no value with employers and risked stigmatising young people in the way that those who failed their 11-plus were stigmatised in the past.
There were also concerns from across the education profession that the proposed curriculum was backward looking. Michael Gove seemed to relish its focus on the past, even saying to my honourable friend, Karen Buck, in the other place,
"I do not see anything wrong with having the 19th century at the heart of the English curriculum".-[Hansard, Commons, 3/12/12; col. 583.]
This was a flawed policy from the start. It demonstrated that Michael Gove completely misunderstands how to deliver change in the education sector and how to take those required to deliver the change with you. In fact, he appears to be having some difficulty in making the transition from being a journalist to running a large, complex ministerial department. Meanwhile, his constant vilification of teachers and constant demands for change have left the profession confused and demoralised. It is due an apology.
Many head teachers have already begun to implement the changes that were on the cards so that they would be ready for the 2015 deadline. They have been changing the timetables and recruiting teachers with different skills because even if they did not agree with the proposals and did not think that they were in the best interests of their pupils, they wanted them to do well under the new regime. So the damage has already been done. This misjudged policy will take time to reverse. I can only imagine what words are being used to describe the Secretary of State in staff rooms up and down the country today.
I am very conscious that I am laying the debacle firmly at the feet of the Secretary of State. It is true that he appears to relish running a department as his personal fiefdom, making policy affecting hundreds of thousands of young people on the hoof and chasing easy headlines. This is not the first time he has had to make an embarrassing U-turn when a policy unravels. But he is not an island, and Ministers around him, and the Prime Minister have to share the responsibility for allowing this cavalier behaviour to continue. I include the Minister, belatedly, in this.
Does the Minister now accept that the Government have burnt their fingers too many times by making ill thought out announcements, and that a different style of leadership and collaboration needs to be developed within the department? Can he tell the House whether an apology will be forthcoming to the heads and teachers who have already taken steps to change the curriculum based on the original EBacc proposals? Can he explain whether the difficulties in implementing the proposals for one exam in one subject was the only reason for the changes to the EBacc proposals, or does he accept that many of the other criticisms, such as those I have expressed today, have some validity? Can he assure the House that the Government take seriously the threat of a two-tier system of exams and that the proposal for a certificate of achievement will be scrapped?
Will the Minister agree to take time to properly consult teachers, parents and employers before he makes any new announcements on the reform of the performance tables so that we can be absolutely sure that they will focus on pupils' genuine achievements and take so-called gaming out of the system? Does he now share the view repeatedly put forward on this side of the House, and by business leaders and others that we need a gold standard vocational qualification offer that is on a par with the academic subjects originally specified in the EBacc? Is the department continuing to consult on the proposal that course work will not form part of the new GCSE assessment because, setting aside the principle, there are a number of subject areas where this appears to be impractical?
By any measure this is an embarrassing day for the Government and for Michael Gove. Parents and teachers waking up to this announcement today will be angry and confused about the messages coming from the department. Rather than trying to cover up mistakes by making yet further announcements, the Secretary of State would benefit from a period of quiet reflection on the lessons learnt from yet another climb-down. Perhaps the Minister could take the message back to his boss that what this country needs is an education system that can deliver the skills needed for the future, not a nostalgic vision of the past. If he is serious about making lasting change he should consult widely, listen intently, and perhaps next time build a consensus before rushing to the press.
Lord Nash (Conservative)
I am surprised at the comments of the noble Baroness as it seems to me that by an excellent democratic process of consultation, we have arrived at a remarkable synthesis of views. Many people have advised that our exam system is in need of fundamental reform. The select committee, Ofqual and others advised that moving to a single exam board was a step too far, and we have listened to that advice. If criticising us for that is the Opposition's best point, we must be doing most things right. No Secretary of State in living memory has done more for children's education in this country than my right honourable friend. Contrary to what the noble Baroness said, I can assure her that he thinks most deeply about our education system.
We are making a great many changes, and quickly, because the state of the education system we inherited demands them. We need to make them in order to be internationally competitive. Over the nine years from 2000 to 2009 we fell from fourth to 16th in science; from eighth to 28th in maths; and from fifth to 25th in literacy. Even if we question the statistics, how many more NEETs do we need and how many more businessmen need to tell you that the people coming out of our schools are not fit for employment to realise that our education system needs fundamental reform?
On the question of embarrassing changes, perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us whether Stephen Twigg still supports a single exam board, as he stated last September. He seemed unable to answer that question in another place earlier today. Anybody who thinks that the current national curriculum is fit for purpose should get out there and sit through lessons, as I have done on many occasions, to see how content-light the current national curriculum is and how it is short-changing our pupils. That was brought home to me about four years ago when I watched a lesson by a so-called very good English teacher on "The Taming of the Shrew". It was a 50-minute lesson and the sole material produced was a single sheet of A4 on which she had photographed the posters of the six films that had been made about "The Taming of the Shrew". The subject matter of the lesson was how more or less the portrayal of the shrew in the photographs had been sexualised. Apparently that was relevant and something in which children could engage. That was when I realised what was going on in our schools.
We believe that pupils can achieve far more than we have hitherto asked of them and everything that I have seen in my experience confirms me in that view. EBacc is based on the best international systems that all have a core suite of academic subjects that sometimes is mandatory. We will substantially reduce controlled assessment, making exams linear, not modular. We will finally be ending the culture of dumbing down. We are putting in place an effective accountability regime which substantially reduces the chances of gaming and ensures all pupils receive equal attention, not just those on the C/D borderline. It encourages a broad and balanced curriculum in which all relevant GCSEs and approved vocational subjects will be treated equally.
Our exams will be modern; they will include computer science; they will be rigorous; they will require deep subject knowledge and understanding; they will test extended essay writing and problem solving and will give our pupils the skills they need for the future. We will also be stripping out unnecessary prescription as to how teachers teach, freeing them up to display their professional expertise and subject knowledge. One very important point, which has gone largely unnoticed so far, is that, as the chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, says in every speech he makes, we no longer care precisely how teachers teach provided our students are learning and making progress. There is a perception among all teachers that there is something called a standard Ofsted lesson. It does not exist but it is perceived to be no more than five minutes teaching from the front; a plenary at the end; group work; peer group discussion and so on. Teachers find this a straitjacket which they live in fear of. We are determined to end this but that message has not got through yet to all Ofsted inspectors; however, we are determined to get it through. When we end this, it will free teachers up to display their professional expertise and their subject knowledge, and make teaching much more enjoyable. We are determined to allow teachers to take back control of their classrooms.
We believe that this curriculum and the examination system we propose will help give our children and young people the education they deserve.
Viscount Clancarty (Crossbench)
My Lords, I thank the Government for listening to the many voices of concern, including those from the arts, about the operation of a two-tier system. We have had good news today; nevertheless, issues remain. Does the Minister accept that for the Government to be consistent in their response to these concerns, any performance measure should not continue to discriminate against subjects, including arts subjects? The Minister will be aware that this is currently having a significant effect in schools with the EBacc performance measure presently in place.
The Bishop of Bath and Wells (Bishop)
My Lords, I speak on behalf on the Church of England but on a personal note to begin with, I failed the 11-plus, went to a secondary modern and got five O-levels, not including English and maths. I ended up as a teacher. I have three sons who teach and they thoroughly enjoy the profession they are in. I welcome the announcement, on behalf of the Church of England, and await more details of what it will mean for our schools. Our concerns about the Government's EBacc plans have always focused on the downgrading of religious education as a core subject. In modern society, understanding about faith has never been more important for both civic discourse and cultural enrichment and we eagerly await the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education to be published next month.
Church schools have always followed the national curriculum. There are dangers in anecdote because I spent a very fortunate three weeks in one of our local comprehensive schools observing the RE teaching, which was of a very high standard indeed. We hope that Mr Gove's plans will put the good of all the pupils first and not just those who are academically gifted-as it is quite clear I am not.
Lord Nash (Conservative)
I have listened to the right reverend Prelate. I am delighted that his family enjoy teaching so much. In my view it is the noblest of professions. I take the point about the dangers of anecdote but I could give him many more and would be happy to do so on another occasion.
Lord Baker of Dorking (Conservative)
My Lords, I warmly welcome the Statement made by Michael Gove in the other House and repeated by my noble friend. When a politician changes his mind it should be an act of rejoicing. What Michael Gove has done in the House of Commons today can only be done by a big politician; little ones would not dare to do it. I very much welcome the fact that we are going back to eight GCSEs, with two more rigorous ones-that is Michael Gove's initiative-in maths and English. There is a group that allows computer science, which I welcome, and another group that allows creative arts and performing arts and, as far as I am concerned, practical, technical and vocational education for university technical colleges. Therefore it is to be welcomed. We will wait to see where they will feature in the league tables.
Is the Minister aware that the broad and balanced curriculum we have heard about today is almost word for word what I announced in 1988 so there has been an erosion of time and good intention and he will have to screw his courage to the sticking place to ensure that this actually happens? Is he also aware that many schools, because of the more rigorous GCSEs, will find it much more demanding to meet these higher levels of requirement and I hope that will lead to them extending the school day so we do not see pupils leaving schools at 3 pm or 3.30 pm.
Lord Nash (Conservative)
I thank my noble friend Lord Baker for his remarks and for his support. I can also assure him that we will be sending messages to all schools that we would like them to emulate what all good schools do, which includes a longer school day.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton (Labour)
Will the Minister accept that while, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said, there may be rejoicing about this U-turn, it is particularly humiliating for the Secretary of State because of the bravado with which he announced his original plans? Maybe the Secretary of State can learn something from that. Many of us still worry that he does not understand the basic problem of trying to be too prescriptive about the national curriculum or an examination system, or the difficulties of not having a proper, coherent examination system in this country. Whatever the questions are, the answer is surely not to have a 19th century model of education, as the Secretary of State suggests.
Does the Minister agree that we can make progress on the national curriculum and the most appropriate system of examination in this country only by building consensus, and building it before the Secretary of State makes decisions? Surely that should be one of the lessons that the Secretary of State learns from this whole experience: you need to consult with head teachers, teachers, employers and parents before you come to a decision, not after you have decided and are trying to ram that decision through.
Will the Minister ask the Leader of the House if we can have a lengthy debate in the House at an early opportunity both on what is appropriate for the national curriculum and how we achieve an examination system that is proper and cohesive and includes both examinations that are academic and ones for those with vocational aptitude? A debate in this House that allowed wide consultation would be useful and constructive for the future.
Lord Nash (Conservative)
As the Secretary of State has said on a number of occasions, the Opposition seem determined to leave the less privileged in this country with a less good education. He has consulted extremely widely. On the accusation that is constantly made of a 19th century education, he has consulted widely with cognitive scientists who will tell you that modern cognitive theory is that knowledge is necessary in order to gain skills. The thinking that you can get skills without knowledge is itself out of date.
Lord Storey (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend repeating the Statement. On these Benches, we want a system where a child can succeed whatever their background. We want fair and rigorous examinations and a broad and balanced curriculum. That is why we welcome the Statement here today. I just wish other Secretaries of State, Ministers and Governments, when they consulted, were prepared to listen to those consultations. In our political system, when Governments listen and modify or change their policies, why do we always refer to it as a U-turn and people going back on what they have said? It is refreshing that when you consult you mean what you say.
I have three questions for my noble friend. Can the Minister confirm that coursework will continue to be a feature of GCSEs where it is essential for the child's learning? Now that the national curriculum has been slimmed down, does the Minister agree that it should be taught by all schools? The Minister will agree that it is essential that all children leave school with solid literacy and numeracy skills. How will the Minister hold schools to account for their performance in these two subjects?
Lord Nash (Conservative)
I thank my noble friend for his remarks. I can confirm that coursework will continue where it is appropriate in the relevant subjects. As the noble Lord knows, the national curriculum does not run in academies and free schools and that policy will not change. The new accountability measure has two parts to it. The one that focuses on English and maths should satisfy his requirements on literacy and numeracy.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (Crossbench)
My Lords, thank you. On the radio this morning, the debate about this-before any Statement had been made-seemed to focus on whether we called someone "stubborn" or "humiliated". That does not seem to be the way in which to conduct a debate on a serious matter. We now have another term-"listening"-although I have noticed that most politicians require a very loud shout before they listen, but that is not unreasonable in the position in which they find themselves.
I have two comments and a question. I notice that in both the Statement and the letter to Ofqual the review of A-levels is canvassed, which is very important and relates to what we are talking about now. In that context, I hope that-as promised-the Government will listen to those university leaders who are involved in teaching, for example, subjects that require a strong maths content, because some who are involved in admissions found the AS-levels a useful prop or crib, but an inaccurate one, in my view.
Secondly, the paper proposes two new measures which I hope will help schools ensure that pupils have the opportunity to sit examinations at the right level. One of these is that the percentage of pupils in each school reaching an attainment threshold should be measured. The wording is very important-percentage of what? Is it the percentage of those sitting the examination, the percentage of those in the age cohort, or the percentage of pupils over the years in the whole school? It really has to be a complete cohort before the percentage tells us what we wish to know.
Lord Nash (Conservative)
I am grateful for the mature opening views of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. As a non-politician myself, I share his views on politicians' listening skills. As far as A-levels are concerned, we have consulted widely with universities and will continue to do so in their formation. On the accountability measures, again we will be consulting on these. I could attempt to answer his question now but I think it would be better if we discussed this separately, which we can do.
Lord Clinton-Davis (Labour)
Going back to what the Minister said originally, did not the Secretary of State describe his original proposals as a major chunk of the Government's agenda? When did that change? Does he agree with what was said then or now? Is it not true that teaching trade unions, Ofqual and the All-Party Group for Education all condemn these proposals as unworkable?
Lord Nash (Conservative)
As I said earlier, we have listened to the consultation and have adapted our proposals accordingly. We have many changes to make to the English education system to render it internationally competitive, and it seems odd to me that when we actually listen and make some changes to one of our proposals, we get criticised.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes (Conservative)
My Lords, I would be grateful to my noble friend if he could elucidate on something that appals me, which is the return of coursework, unless it is divided where it would be appropriate; for example, in engineering and subjects of that sort rather than in the academic sphere.
Lord Lucas (Conservative)
My Lords, I congratulate my right honourable friend on a very well judged Statement. Can my noble friend help me with a broad, value-added measure? Will the Government consider having a decent base measure for this as key stage 2 is inadequate and very coarse and will distort any measure of performance at key stage 4 if we do not improve on it? As far as the threshold measure in English and maths is concerned, can my noble friend confirm that this will be properly criterion-referenced so that if 95% of our young people achieve that level, they will be awarded it? Can Ofqual please be taught how to do this because it has made a complete Horlicks of it until now?
Lord Addington (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, can my noble friend just elucidate one or two points he makes about standards? My interest in dyslexia will come as no surprise to the rest of the House; 10% of the population is in that spectrum. When he talks about improving standards of English will he undertake to ensure that teachers are better trained to deal with this very large minority group? Furthermore, will he undertake to ensure that the examination system treats this group fairly? Many dyslexics find the idea of one-off exams very intimidating and prefer coursework. You also have the problem of 25% extra time which has been abused. It is such a big group that there must be some consideration given to it.
My other point is: when it comes to heroes and heroines in history, who is judging? Is Henry V a hero because he won Agincourt or a villain because he killed lots of unarmed prisoners when he thought he might be attacked again?
Lord Nash (Conservative)
My Lords, we are investing in training for dyslexia. We have consulted widely on the matter of dyslexic and other pupils with SEN in relation to the examinations. I assure the noble Lord that we will take their needs into account. I shall not attempt to answer his third question, but we think it is important that pupils study not only the broad sweep of history but a variety of figures from the past, of both sexes and of all races.
Lord Bates (Conservative)
My Lords, I welcome the Statement. There is only one part I disagree with: although my noble friend's regard for the current Secretary of State is admirable, the mantle of the greatest post-war Secretary of State for Education will be held for some time by my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking. I ask my noble friend to reflect on that.
Secondly, I wholeheartedly welcome the removal of the artificial division and glass ceiling on attainment between the higher and foundation tiers, but I have one area of concern: the proposal that instead of seven exam boards there should be only one. Everyone in education knows that the competition between exam boards has been a root cause of grade inflation. Is it true to say that that could not go ahead because of EU procurement laws? If so, will the Secretary of State take that up as part of our renegotiation of terms with our European partners?
Lord Nash (Conservative)
My Lords, I have to tell the House that I met the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for the first time earlier this week over lunch. When I have had several more lunches with him, I may change my view. But in answer to the specific question, it is not true that those changes are driven by EU procurement laws.
Lord Beecham (Labour)
My Lords, given that it is the Government's apparent aspiration for the vast majority of, if not all, schools to become academies, what is the rationale for excluding them from the operation of the national curriculum?
Lord Nash (Conservative)
The purpose of the academies programme is to bring innovation and change to the education system. One of the freedoms that academies have is not to abide by the national curriculum. Most do, but an increasing number, including my school, Pimlico Academy, at key stage 3 are moving from it. We are keen to encourage good schools to have the freedom to do that.