National curricula

In structuring National Curricula in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, priority has been given to English, Mathematics and Science. Restructured in England and Wales in 1995 in the 'Dearing review', national curricula for the UK experienced a further substantial revision in 2000.  See also Adams and CCEA for examples.

The non-statutory guidelines for Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Citizenship are the parts of the National Curriculum that link most strongly with stated aims and values - see QCA; Beck & Earl; Inman, Buck & Tandy. For a consideration of the citizenship agenda see Klein; Claire; Holden and Clough; and Gardner et al. By contrast, the statutory subject orders sometimes sit uncomfortably with the aims and values that are intended to inform them.

To a large extent the curriculum for schools has been placed in a linear form within each subject - and this is, of course, backed up by formal assessment procedures. There are several disadvantages in this approach, some of which are articulated by Ernest.

However, focusing on implementing a broadly constructivist approach in the classroom, Selley shows how this is not necessarily incompatible with highly structured national curricula. McNamara, and Woods & Jeffrey, reflect the scope of the teaching role in the modern primary school, whilst Paechter provides a re-conceptualisation of the field of curriculum and its negotiation.

Osborn et al document teachers' reactions to the introduction of the National Curriculum, and the companion volume, Pollard and Triggs, describes the impact of its introduction on pupils' experiences of life in classrooms.

For a radical, revisionist view of the primary curriculum that questions the basis of many national curricula, again see Quicke; and for a seminal perspective from a renowned American educationalist, see Eisner. Another American perspective, this time on the implicit and explicit influences on the culture of the curriculum, is provided by Joseph.

It is interesting to note that, from the advice on 'loosening' of the structure of the foundation subject curriculum in 2001 to the publication of 'Excellence and Enjoyment' in 2003, government advice for schools in England and Wales has acknowledged that a tightly subject-based curriculum is not the only way to organise the curriculum for learning in primary schools.

Key issues in contemporary vocational education are explored in: