Phase One: The First Five Years

It is almost impossible to summarise what a changed education landscape should look like without being challenged to provide the research. After all, every point is a provocation. Perhaps that is the point because if we don’t get the debate moving along, we will continue to fail too many of our children. 

  • The school day keeps its current shape
  • A change is instigated in school culture: behaviour, aspiration, ethics, expectations.
  • Children are taught to see the relevance of education –hence, ipso facto, it must be relevant
  • Music and physical education, drama and fitness/ sport activities, including pilates, dance etc are offered at the start of day music
  • Formal lessons of core subjects start at 10.00am 
  • No external assessment until 11 (ie no EYFS or SATS)
  • Move away from selective education – some setting allowed within Years 11 – 13
  • Gradual abandonment of GCSEs
  • Use of external providers for remote learning to cater for a wide a range of interests and abilities as practicable (universities, vocational, freelance providers, sharing amongst schools)
  • Obstacles, such as excessive accountability for pupils’ performance, classroom disruption, loss of teachers addressed with more focus on classroom management and pedagogy.
  • Gradual separation of societal and educative functions of schools (also be reflected in staffing)
  • Blended education offered between internal and external providers in the afternoon sessions
  • Staff to include teaching, tutors and facilitators with a commensurate reduction in the number of teacher assistants above Year 5
  • Core subjects (especially English and Mathematics) stripped down to utility value, ie less focus on peripheral grammatical terms, (determiners, fronted adverbial phrases, ellipsis), less emphasis on written comprehension, text analysis, more on interpretation, writing skills, accuracy of written language, oral language; in Mathematics, less focus on algebra and calculus in KS 1 – 3, more on practical mathematical skills, tables, measurement, money.
  • Significant curriculum change outside of the core subjects with less focus on teaching for assessment (more practical science, practical geography, ecology, more music, art)
  • Main homework up to Year 5 should be reading (only other homework should be retentive work, spelling, languages, tables, formulae) 
  • Ethical underpinning of the curriculum  – an understanding of the anthropocene, re-wilding, climate change, ecology and regeneration
  • Absorption of History and Geography into Social Studies up until age 14 years
  • A root and branch review of what a school should look like (including how to incorporate technology – and the mobile phone – into teaching
  • An overhaul / reduction of PD / CPD and new terminology to provide a period of continuity with a focus on pedagogy.
  • Focus on classroom management, growing expectations, improving engagement with a focus on relevance and ownership. 
  • Extra funding required to augment a reductionist approach to education to ensure the lesson is not cluttered by distractions
  • Less focus on cognitive load theory, knowledge rich curriculum, learning and retrieval practice, modes of assessment etc 
  • More focus on intellectual risk taking, innovation and problem solving.
  • Homogenising of school types (grammar, state, independent)
  • A healthy scepticism of the economic model and business of schools  
  • In all things, schools need to visit and re-visit the central question: ‘what is the best education we can give our children – here and now?’

This is to fuel discussion and debate. It can do little more. Don’t look for gaps because they are everywhere – for instance, nothing on careers, EYFS, phonics, pastoral care, vocational qualifications etc, but they covered in the debate on   I am happy to footnote any points and to apologise for any serious omissions which will be numerous. 

Phase Two: Where we are heading

In five years, education may well be dictated by factors other than academic and pastoral measures, including considerations of the environment, health, cultural and economic factors. Change will be exacerbated by the current pandemic that is altering the social and economic landscape as I write.  And yet while it is hard to see education out of the shadow of Covid19, we must do so.  What is paramount is that we change the culture so people think of community above self (as already happening) and we look at how to make education available to all, either as blended education or, as a default position, to  all children via the internet. The list below is predictive, but looks to draw together some of the best thinking out there and to provide a basis for debate.

  • Schools will continue to visit and re-visit the central question: ‘what is the best education we can give our children?’
  • The shape of the school day will be modified and compartmentalised according to societal / community need 
  • The role and function of educators will change to accommodate a greater degree of separation of roles into tutors, facilitators, classroom, assistants, auxiliary, specialists roles each with more specific defined roles.
  • Ofsted will be closed down and different measures used for employing worth based on human values / attitudes and behaviours as well as educational achievement
  • The status and well-being of teachers to be prioritised by Government
  • All education will be available remotely for all students. While the emphasis will be on classroom teaching, individual programmes will be the norm and all school programmes will be blended as required. Courses offered by schools will include courses offered by all sectors and all providers, as deemed appropriate
  • A national virtual school that offers all academic and vocational courses will be established, particularly to promote marginal subjects (languages, etc)
  • Education will be geared to need and will be pared down to a required core before any specialisation (similar to the Trivium). Functional skills will be honed before specialisation
  • Creative subjects and general health will be prioritised
  • STEM subjects and digital learning will be implicit (cf explicit) parts of learning
  • Assessment will be on-line. By the use of better algorithms, summative assessment will be greatly reduced and national testing confined to the final years of school.  Assessment will change from measuring learning peaks to assessing deeper understanding
  • The rationale of education will change from academic achievement to utility and inclusion.  Through acknowledging readiness and better data, doors to career choice will remain open, longer.  
  • At present around 15% of the population are diagnosed with special needs. By 2025, it will be accepted that all students have ‘special needs’ and that the delivery of education will be tailored accordingly, both in mainstream and on-line classes.
  • The most important and fundamental change will be in the culture of education which will be a shift from the selfish premise of education, based on individual achievement to a much wider interpretation of what makes a good citizen, sic, a fulfilled human being. This will mean a shift from a ‘me’ culture to a ‘we’ culture.
  • The doughnut economy will lie at the heart of our curriculum with its emphasis on regeneration, conservation, and a redefinition of economic value.
  • GDP will be widely discredited as THE tool to measure national prosperity and growth. Planned obsolescence will be seen as both redundant and wasteful. 
  • Only external exams will be at the top of secondary schools (nb GCSEs no longer exist)
  • Further curriculum development to ensure creativity and thinking is at the heart of learning
  • An adherence to what has worked in education: rote-learning, memory work, communication skills (written and spoken) will still underpin education
  • League tables banned along with any competitive advertising based on examination results
  • Curriculum to focus on key skill – oral and verbal communication, digital skills, reading and mathematics up until end of Year 6.
  • Broad subjects to be integrated into broad groups: Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences up until the end of Year 10.
  • Pathways from Year 11 onwards   
  • End of selective schools
  • Funding heavily apportioned on decile point based on areas and intake (10 = best areas / schools / minimal funding) 1 = most deprived areas maximum funding)
  • No private funding of education. A focus on the integrity of schools, curriculum and purpose.  Which means increased national funding.
  • Part of the cultural change (linked to careers and choices made at Age 16) is an emphasis on service occupations over self-service, value measured in other than monetary terms (a redefinition of value and worth)
  • A change in the way education is perceived by the young: no longer adversarial, but helpful, useful, having a purpose, challenging, relevant, tailored to their needs

This is, of course, predictive and only opinion. But it is an attempt to add flesh to the words of all those that write ‘time for change’, ‘we cannot go back to how things were’ etc. While these are sentiments I agree wholeheartedly (and sad it has taken a world pandemic to get to this point), we cannot simply dismantle a system of education without proposing what can take its place. This involves looking anew at our system, and preferably from without rather than from within, with all its vested interests and roadblocks. This has been a significant part of my work on the curriculum page of my website at

Once again, I am aware many areas (pastoral and careers for instance) have only been alluded to, but rather than point out what’s missing, help me fill in the gaps. I am happy to footnote any points and apologise for any omissions / errors that are herein. 

Appendix:  Clearing out the Curriculum: Finding that Blank Page  (Published between Phase One and Phase Two)

You don’t have to look far to find advice on reshaping the curriculum. Out there, in the edu-marketplace, are literally thousands of educationalists, academics and consultants explaining, interpreting and defining the national curriculum by delivering courses and workshops, each offering nuanced opinions about content, planning and delivery, resources and results.  Behind them exists a subsidiary industry producing text-books, apps, journals and resources, tutors and teachers tweeking pedagogy as they go.  And that is before we move from the generic into the specific, the subject domains, each undergoing its own process of revisionism and development as they must, justifying change along the way. For defending your subject in the battleground of choice is no easy task. Sexing up your subject, at school, at university, is part of the game. Enter ‘curriculum’ into twitter and you will see how widespread the industry is. And it is an industry.  

Curricula should always be subject to constant discussion and change. But the problem with the plethora of new theories, endless research and advances in neuroscience is a new vocabulary and a profession as often confused as they are bemused. It becomes a huge anchor on the imagination and an impediment to change. It is a pond that is struggling more and more to find room for all the subjects and ideas (so many lessons a week; so many hours in the timetable, so many different demands), for the pond is a finite space inhabited by only so many fish. And at the same time, more and more is being asked of schools and teachers at the very time that blanket weed and algae are slowly suffocating the life out of it.

In looking at where we are going with education, we need to abandon this model. We need to forget about its premise and content and ignore what we have always done, even the building blocks and subject domains. We need to stop tinkering with a model that is at the whim of political and industry machination and accept it is redundant. And for many reasons that is not easy.

Forgetting what we know of education we should ask a single question, ‘what is the best education we can give our children in the here and now? What do they need to know? What should they know? Forget subject domains. Forget topics and material that are taught because they’ve always been taught and schools have the resources and the qualified staff to teach them. Forget the cries of industry who call for the primacy of vocational skills; forget the classicists and historians who argue that only by understanding the wisdom and ruination of the past can we plot our onward journey; forget what we know of technology as well as traditional teaching pedagogy; forget grammaticians who argue for the terms children need to know for KS2; ignore the mathematicians who feel algebra and calculus are necessary for all. Forget what schools look like and how they work. Ask that question ‘What is the best education we can give our children in the here and now? and keep asking it.  Put everything we think and know to one side and ask what are the skills and knowledge, the values and ideas children need, now, today? Forget about assessment which for too long has drained the life from learning. Forget the adversarial nature of education, the role society has given it, the way children and parents view it.  Forget about the idea of university being the natural outcome, towards which schools are skewered; forget all that.

And ask instead not only what could be done to make our curriculum more relevant, more applicable to a world that is dynamic yet increasingly rootless. Maybe some for the change will not be so drastic, that some blocks will remain, perhaps even skills like rote learning and handwriting, but only by asking (and then answering) the question will we know. 

Everyone has something to say on education. There is much good work that is going on with educational research about how children learn that is crucial in shaping our views and understanding. But teachers are in danger of not knowing where to turn as the pressures of their job are compounded by ambiguities about ‘what is education’ and ‘what is the appropriate pedagogy.’ Within the current paradigm, ways have been found to clean the pond and restock it, but it’s still a pond. Perhaps a better analogy would have been an ox-bow lake, left behind as the river has passed by with its different channels and meanders. We need to get out of the stagnant waters and back into the river to make our curriculum more dynamic. I have already proposed some thoughts about a transitional stage for education in a previous blog, but as to what happens after that it is difficult to predict other than change will be slow and laborious – which could be calamitous, not only for children, but for society. Nevertheless, predict we must and turn our focus forwards rather than holding onto the direction of travel so far. Self-interest, inertia, issues with funding will not be easily overcome. Nor will be the interests of an expansive and profitable education industry: the producers of teaching aids, books and resources; those who run conferences, sell CPD, organise subject associations, print journals and whose opinions on social media hold undue sway. They are not just going to step aside unless they feel confident in a new direction. But they should also take a step outside the pond, clear their heads and start to think more about what they are contributing to and whether they truly believe in it. Many of them say that our children are not happy, nor are they well-provided for. If we ignore the need for change, we will be guilty of sacrificing our them for a curriculum that has less and less relevance to them, that has built-in pressures and is driven by often irrelevant outcomes, a system that ignores their personal needs, their mental health and well-being and even the need of society for good citizens. We owe them more than that.