The best comments yet on the reorganised secondary school curriculum, announced today, have come on the Today programme (7.09) from Peter Hyam, the former Blair advisor who now teaches history in a North London secondary school (and wrote a book about it). Like everyone else he welcomes the new flexibility the slimmed-down curriculum will allow, which is in keeping with the government's pledge to personalise education to individual pupils' needs. He also enthused about the potential for school departments to work together on local history projects, which strikes me as a brilliant idea. The thing that really rang my bell, though, was his quoting the saying that "primary school teachers teach children, secondary school teachers teach subjects". We need to think more about the sort of people we want to emerge at the end of secondary school and build the curriculum to meet that goal, he said.
I agree. And it brings me back to a problem many parents have when our children make the great secondary transfer leap. It is, simply, that our children disappear. Secondary schools are such large, impenetrable bureaucracies. It can be near-impossibe to find out particular things about your child's progress because teachers struggle to find the time or the gaps in the school day to see you or to return your calls. Parents' evenings can't even begin to make up the shortfall. Meanwhile, school reports have been reduced to rows of figures requiring three pages of explanatory notes. This gap between parents and their childrens' secondary schools surely needs to be closed, especially in respect of children who are struggling or misbehaving. Whole family approaches often work well with tackling social problems in other contexts. Why not in the realm secondary education too?