Following the email I sent via the People and Planet website, an automatic response has been delivered…
‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’
(Native American Proverb)
Thank you for your enquiry on this very important matter.
Very few people read past the headline of the Guardian article of 13th June (Climate change should go from school syllabus). Many people have missed the point. For example: websites are saying ‘Keep climate change in the school curriculum’. This is a confusion. It confuses the National Curriculum with the School Curriculum. If we desire our National Curriculum to be robust, enduring and not overbearing, then we need to have some strong principles about what is in and what is not.
The National Curriculum lays down, in law, the fundamentals which all children should be taught. It should be lean and precise, describing the essentials of human knowledge and understanding. The National Curriculum is part of, but not the totality, of the School Curriculum.
The School Curriculum should be broad and balanced, consisting of rich learning programmes devised by teachers who understand which topics and issues would most motivate and engage their pupils.
The national and international evidence scrutinised by the Expert Panel giving advice on the National Curriculum suggests that this is a vital distinction which we, in our education system, have lost.
The National Curriculum should provide a clear statement of the essential elements of learning which underpin – and form part of – a broad and balanced School Curriculum for children from 5 to 16.
A slimmed-down National Curriculum is intended to be a positive development, empowering teachers and schools. It increases the ‘professional space’ in schools, giving the opportunity for teachers carefully to select themes and issues which will maximise learners’ motivation and engagement.
It’s precisely BECAUSE the environment is so important that we need children to engage with these complex issues with comprehensive and incisive scientific understanding. The National Curriculum should focus with great intensity on what this understanding comprises. We want increasing attainment and understanding amongst those taking science and related subjects in Higher Education; we need all children to be prepared well for engagement in ALL of the vital issues which confront our society.
As the Chair of the Expert Panel, providing advice to the Secretary of State on the content of a new, more robust National Curriculum, I am seeking to assert the distinction between the National Curriculum and the School Curriculum, precisely because we want issues such as climate change to be discussed in such a way that the right actions will be taken by the next generation, and generations to come.
Once again, thank you for your comments on these vital matters.
Cambridge, June 2011
After reading this and the attached letter, I sent the following response…