The Telegraph, 07/06/14, Sir Alasdair MacDonald claims state school curriculum is too narrow to produce rounded students
Pupils in Britain can only receive a good education if they go to private school, a government advisor has claimed.
Sir Alasdair MacDonald, who is the Welsh Assembly’s ‘Raising Attainment’ tsar and who has led reviews into government policy, said the state school curriculum was now too narrow to produce rounded students.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Sir Alasdair also said that education secretaries had far too much influence on what pupils are taught and called for an independent commission to determine what should be in the curriculum.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has faced heavy criticism for sweeping reforms to history and English syllabuses. A petition calling for David Cameron to sack Mr Gove has now reached 110,000 signatures.
“I believe that our schools are in quite a serious place,” said Sir Alasdair.
“The only chance that young people from a disadvantaged background in our society have to be successful is to get 5 A-Cs in their exams, and so that’s what schools do.
“But if we really want an education that I would want then the only place you can find it is public schools.
“They still have a commitment to a broad balanced curriculum and it pains me to say it. If you go back to the original public school model, with its focus on oracy, drama, visits, music, all children have an entitlement to that.
“Schools will become good at whatever you measure. We need a commission which will say what school is for.”
Sir Alasdair was knighted in 2007 after turning around the academic achievement of Morpeth Secondary School in Tower Hamlets, east London.
He warned that schools were closing music and drama departments because the subjects did not feature in the English Baccalaureate or make a difference to league table results.
“State schools have found themselves following a grammar school curriculum, but that has become reduced and reduced and narrower and narrower, driven by league tables and Ofsted putting pressure on schools,” he added.
“(Pupils) should be allowed to pursue and interest in the arts and develop a confidence so they can challenge the status quo.
“The political parties use education as a means of differentiating themselves from other parties.
“The Secretary of State thinks he can decide what we should be doing in things like English and History. That’s not a very helpful development.”
The psychologist Prof Tanya Byron, also warned that league tables and pressure at school was leading to a rise in anxious children with mental health problems. .
“Failure is just not an option for children anymore,” she said: “Failure is something to be afraid of not something to learn from.”
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