DES Report on the Circular 8/83 Review (1986)
This document summarised local education authorities' responses to Circular 8/83 (1983).
The Report on the Circular 8/83 Review was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 8 February 2020.
Local Authority Policies for the School Curriculum
Report on the Circular 8/83 Review
Department of Education and Science
LOCAL AUTHORITY POLICIES FOR THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM
Report on the Circular 8/83 Review
1. The development of curricular policy at each level in the education service is a central element in the Government's strategy to improve schools. The White Paper Better Schools (Cmnd 9469) published in March 1985 stated the twin goals of raising the standards achieved by pupils and securing the best possible return from the resources devoted to schools. The Government believes that the achievement of these goals calls for broad agreement about the objectives and content of the school curriculum, and it has stated its intention of working with its partners in the education service towards such a framework of agreement.
2. A necessary part of the process of reaching that agreement is for local education authorities and schools to define and review their own curricular policies. Following the publication of The School Curriculum (HMSO 1981), DES Circular 6/81 (Welsh Office Circular 44/81) asked each LEA, in consultation with governors, teachers and others concerned:
a. to review its policy for the school curriculum in its area, and its arrangements for making that policy known to all concerned;3. Two years later DES Circular 8/83 (Welsh Office Circular 59/83) asked LEAs to report to the Secretary of State what steps had been taken by the authorities themselves and by the teaching staff and governing bodies of schools since the issue of Circular 6/81. This report gives an account of the responses to that request received from LEAs in England. It reflects the nature of Circular 8/83
which dealt mainly with the processes within authorities for preparing and giving effect to their curricular policies. The Circular did not address in detail the substance of most of those policies. In consequence, this account does not cover important aspects of LEAs' educational aims. Any good curricular policy is likely to take a position on the role of the school, for example: in the development of moral values among pupils; in providing religious education; and in the treatment of politically controversial subjects - but these are not topics for inclusion in this document. Also, the Circular was concerned primarily with authorities' own arrangements and not with the processes within schools for curricular planning and implementation. Many authorities who have formulated their curricular policies are now considering how schools may effect curricular change so that declared statements of aims are reflected in the day-to-day work of all teachers and pupils.
4. It is clear from authorities' written responses to Circular 8/83 and from the other information available to the Department that a great deal, involving very many people, has been done at authority and school level to prepare expressly formulated curricular policies and where appropriate to implement changes designed to bring current school practices into conformity with those policies. While Circulars 6/81 and 8/83 were an important stimulus to these developments, many authorities have been engaged on curricular reviews for some years, because of the need to meet the requirements laid on them by a changing, complex society and of the need to adjust their provision in the light of falling rolls. This valuable work is reflected in the extensive documentation supplied with responses to Circular 8/83, for which the Department is grateful, and is making an important contribution to the development of the Government's own policies on the curriculum as expressed in Better Schools and elsewhere.
The responses from local education authorities
5. DES Circular 8/83 was issued to local education authorities in December 1983, and replies were requested by the end of April 1984. All 97 English authorities responded.(1) Thirty seven replies were received by April 1984 and 92
(1) The response from the Isles of Scilly explained that, because of its special circumstances, the authority was unable to reply in full to the Circular.
by the end of the year, but some did not arrive until the Summer of 1985 or later. The responses received from LEAs were thus written over an extended period of time. They also vary widely in form and in their degree of detail. In view of these considerations, this short account cannot claim to portray comprehensively the varied and complex pattern of developments revealed in the responses from authorities. Rather it has been judged to be most helpful to LEAs and others, in their continuing work, to bring together the main issues emerging from replies to the questions in Circular 8/83, and thus to indicate the extent to which a consensus about the objectives and content of the school curriculum existed at the time when authorities made their responses. Because of the variety of forms of responses, the quantifications in the analysis which follows may in some cases underestimate how many LEAs have taken a particular position. This account reflects the position in most authorities in 1984, since which time significant progress has been made by many LEAs.
Progress in drawing up a policy
6. In Better Schools the Government made plain that the Secretaries of State, the LEA and the school each need a curricular policy in order to discharge their respective functions. An LEA's policy should inform the exercise of a wide range of its functions, particularly in relation to such matters as staff development and the deployment of its teaching force and its advisory service. On the basis of broadly agreed principles about the range and pattern of the 5 to 16 curriculum, Better Schools suggested that an LEA's policy should, for example, concern itself with the balance between curricular elements and the age and pace at which pupils are introduced to particular subject areas. Circular 8/83 had asked each LEA to report on the progress being made in drawing up such a policy for the curriculum in its primary and secondary schools.
7. The responses received from LEAs in most cases reflected work spanning three years and more on the formulation of curricular policies, to which a great many had devoted considerable care and effort. At the time they made their responses, five-sixths of authorities had drawn up a policy statement or were planning soon to do so. More than half the LEAs had by then produced statements covering policies for the 5 to 16 curriculum as a whole; others had drawn up
separate statements for primary and secondary education. This represents significant progress since the publication of Local Authority Arrangements for the School Curriculum (DES, 1979) which recorded the results of a similar survey of LEAs conducted in 1977 and 1978. Then, few authorities reported that they had produced detailed policy statements as such on the curriculum. Those which had done so had generally confined their statements to a small number of distinct topics.
8. About a sixth of LEAs were not drawing up policies for the curriculum as such. Some saw their role as that of promoting discussion rather than determining overall policy: they argued that the freedom of the individual school and the head to determine the content of the curriculum according to local needs and circumstances precluded a detailed policy statement at LEA level. Most such authorities did however have some statement of broad educational aims and took various measures to see that the aims of individual schools were not in conflict with them.
9. Authorities are at widely differing stages in the development of their curriculum policies and the picture is changing rapidly. In their responses, most authorities described the process of reviewing the school curriculum as a continuing one which could never be complete. At the time they wrote to the DES, some were still engaged in consultations designed to lead to the formal adoption of a statement of policy. (Some of these have subsequently submitted their statements.) Others which had written policy statements were beginning to put them into effect. The majority of policy statements submitted are couched in general terms, many of them being intended to be read in conjunction with more specific subject guidelines. Some authorities without a statement of policy have nonetheless issued guidelines for individual subjects or aspects of the curriculum.
Those involved in drawing up the policy
10. The formulation of a local education authority curriculum policy is a process to which many interested parties have something to contribute, including not only those within the education service but also those whom it serves such as employers and parents. In their replies to Circular 8/83 authorities
described a variety of approaches to drawing up their policies. Many had in the first instance convened a special working party to draft a statement, its membership usually being made up of LEA officers, advisers and heads; elected members and outside interests were occasionally represented too. An alternative approach adopted by some was for the LEA advisers or officers to draw up the statement of policy - sometimes on the basis of curriculum returns from schools, sometimes in dialogue with an established consultative body.
11. Once a draft statement of policy had been prepared in one of these ways, consultations often drew on governing bodies and heads (in the majority of cases) and staffs of schools. Nearly half the LEAs also referred to consultations with teachers' associations. There was less evidence in what was reported of the direct involvement of parents (a quarter of respondents) and few had consulted local industry and commerce (only a sixth), though a number referred in this connection to the representative nature of their school governing bodies. A tenth of authorities reported consultations with establishments of further and higher education. Church bodies, political parties and community groups were also mentioned by a few authorities. Two recorded their invitation, via the public library service, to the general public to submit comments. In virtually all authorities preparation of the policy statement involved aided schools on the same basis as county and other voluntary schools.
Statements of schools' aims for the curriculum
12. Better Schools proposed that each school should have a policy concerned with the organisation and delivery of the curriculum to its pupils. Such a policy would take account of the policy of the LEA as well as the school's own priorities in accordance with its traditions, its ethos, the needs of its pupils and the wishes of their parents.
13. At the time when they responded to Circular 8/83 many authorities had only recently produced a policy statement or were still in the process of doing so. It was therefore too early in most cases for schools to have statements of curricular aims that were formulated in the light of the LEA's policy.
However, nearly half of the authorities reported that schools had set out their aims in writing, many of them in response to The School Curriculum, and some were taking steps to assess their curriculum against those aims. Two authorities which had not themselves drawn up statements of policy had asked schools to draft their own statements against the criteria in The School Curriculum. The sample school statements submitted with responses from LEAs tend to begin with a general declaration of aims and objectives and go on to describe how these are applied in each subject area. Many of these statements include details of assessment procedures and have been written specifically to be included in guides for parents.
14. Where LEA policies existed, the schools' statements of aims generally followed the policy and approach in the LEA's own statement. Most authorities expressed their concern that schools' aims should be compatible with their own curricular policies and were working with schools to that end. In some cases this involved a request to governing bodies to ensure compatibility; in others schools were asked to submit their statements to the LEA so that advisers or officers could pursue with them any aspects which seemed at variance with authority policy.
15. Some authorities referred to steps they were taking to bring about the systematic review of schools' curricula. Some had introduced or were introducing annual curriculum returns from schools, both to monitor progress on the development of the curriculum and to help determine staffing requirements. Other authorities asked governing bodies to playa role in the process of curriculum review and required heads to make an annual report on the curriculum to governors. Some authorities were asking schools to supplement their statements of aims with schemes of work for particular subjects or aspects of the curriculum. A number of authorities were developing specific schemes for schools' self-evaluation and some were providing staff development courses to this end.
Implications for the development and management of the teaching force
16. LEAs have a crucial responsibility to manage the teaching force so that the teachers' professional commitment, skills and knowledge can be used to best effect within schools to achieve the curricular objectives now being defined by authorities and schools. Particularly at a time when rolls are falling and many schools are undergoing organisational change, the Government believes that positive action is needed by LEAs to ensure that their teacher force is deployed in the most cost-effective way possible. The Government has endorsed the principle of curriculum-led staffing under which LEAs combine judgements about appropriate curricula for schools with assumptions about organisational matters to yield staffing figures which can be examined in the light of the authority's expenditure policies. Where such considerations indicate a total requirement for teachers greater than can be afforded, the Government believes that it is important to maintain the curriculum-led approach: the optimum curriculum provision should be achieved from the teachers available, even if this leads to difficult choices about factors such as class sizes and the organisation of schools.
17. Responses to Circular 8/83 from the majority of authorities indicate their recognition that curricular policies must have consequences for the management and deployment of the teaching force. A number have formulated staffing policies which explicitly draw on objectives for the curriculum, but they are not all being put into effect; some authorities reported that they would be implemented as resources became available. The policies formulated often identified the need for special measures to protect the curriculum in schools with falling rolls, including the allocation of additional teachers to allow a more generous staff-pupil ratio than usually applied and the appointment of peripatetic specialist teachers to serve groups of schools. Some LEAs referred to the designation of staff within primary schools with responsibility for particular subjects and to the introduction of teaching approaches using more than one teacher in the classroom. Authorities also referred to the need to appoint advisory teachers and curriculum co-ordinators, and to the introduction of teaching approaches which spanned the traditional subject boundaries. A third of LEAs, however, did not describe action to tackle the staffing consequences of curricular change.
18. The Government's policies on the curriculum have significant implications for in-service training. In the Government's view a more systematic and purposeful approach to planning in~service training at local level is required to support the aim of better management of the teaching force. In the responses to Circular 8/83 the importance of in-service training for staff at all levels and in all curriculum areas was widely recognised. Authorities referred both to improving and updating the knowledge and skills of teachers and to management training for heads and senior staff members. The training of teachers who had charge of pupils with special educational needs in ordinary schools was the specific area most frequently mentioned. Authorities also referred to the need for in-service training in respect of, for example: craft, design and technology (CDT); computing; able pupils; primary mathematics; primary science; continuity between phases; and preparation for the GCSE and CPVE examinations.
Constraints on policy implementation
19. The Government accepts that resources are needed to achieve many of the changes in the school curriculum which are increasingly being recognised as desirable at national, LEA and school level. However, it believes that LEAs have scope to redeploy resources available to them in support of policies to which they wish to give priority, provided that they take advantage of falling rolls to rationalise school provision and of the general opportunities for efficiency savings in the education service.
20. Half of the authorities replying to Circular 8/83 identified particular constraints which limited the extent to which they could put their policies for the school curriculum into effect. The most commonly expressed was the need to expand LEA advisory services so that they could support and monitor the development of the curriculum in schools. Some authorities referred to the need for improved in-service training provision and stated that the availability of resources limited their capacity to respond. There were references to difficulties in recruiting teachers of subjects in which there was a shortage. Some referred to the need for additional teachers, to provide cover for staff
released for training or to be deployed in schools directly to enhance the curriculum. Others would have liked more ancillary and administrative support in schools, including technicians and librarians in particular. Authorities also referred to constraints imposed by shortages of equipment, particularly for developments in science, technology and business studies.
LEAs' POLICY STATEMENTS
21. While the statement of a local education authority's policy on the school curriculum should allow for the variations in school ethos, pupils' needs and parents' wishes which will be reflected in schools' own statements of aims, the Secretary of State believes that the guidance should be sufficiently explicit to be of practical value to governors and heads. The Department judges that the statements submitted by about a third of authorities meet this requirement. A further sixth contained useful discussion of the curriculum, but either offered only partial coverage or made few recommendations to schools. The remaining half of authorities had produced a policy statement that gave little specific guidance to schools (in some cases because it simply described current practice in schools) or had not produced a statement at all. Since they made their initial responses a number of authorities have submitted newly adopted policy statements, and it is clear that much work is continuing.
22. The policy statements submitted varied substantially in length, mainly reflecting the degree of detail in the exposition rather than any fundamental difference of approach. Many statements followed a very similar pattern, opening with a section on the aims of the curriculum and an explanation of the respective responsibilities of the LEA, governing bodies and heads. There was then a discussion of the content of the primary and secondary curriculum using some framework of analysis to look at the roles of individual components, whether classified as subjects or on another basis such as areas of experience, within the curriculum as a whole. Some authorities also included here other aspects, of which special educational needs and ethnic diversity were common themes. Statements often included a section on the implementation of the policy by LEAs and schools, and concluded with a recognition that curriculum review is a continuing process that needs systematic monitoring. The more comprehensive
statements also included sections on: the organisation of schools; the deployment of staff; assessment and record keeping; policies on examinations; and in-service training programmes. Many authorities submitted with their statements a wealth of supporting material including reports by working parties, subject guidelines, details of in-service training programmes, papers on schools' staffing, advice on schools' self-evaluation, and sample copies of schools' aims. One authority also sent a video tape about the school curriculum.
23. Better Schools (paragraph 44) set out the following list of the purposes of learning, which was based on one offered in The School Curriculum:
i. to help pupils to develop lively, enquiring minds, the ability to question and argue rationally and to apply themselves to tasks, and physical skills;
24. While different authorities have suggested modifications to this list and will have views about the priorities to be attached to its various elements, the responses received to Circular 8/83 suggest that, taken as a very general statement of the purposes of school education, the list does command widespread agreement. Many of those authorities which opened their policy documents with a broad statement of aims for the school curriculum either based those statements on the list in The School Curriculum or stated aims which were compatible with that list. However, the responses of half the authorities did not follow the pattern of including an early, explicit statement of aims.
Frameworks for analysis of the curriculum
25. The Government has accepted in Better Schools that no single framework is sufficient for analysing the curriculum for all professional and other purposes. No one framework used alone can ensure that the curriculum is broad and balanced. Authorities' responses to Circular 8/83 reflect a variety of approaches to analysis of the curriculum, but there is much common ground. Over half found it valuable to use a framework of "areas of experience", of which the most recent version by Her Majesty's Inspectorate was described in The Curriculum from 5 to 16 (Curriculum Matters 2, 1985): the aesthetic and creative; the human and social; the linguistic and literary; the mathematical; the moral; the physical; the scientific; the spiritual; and the technological. Of those whose analysis relies on areas of experience, half use it to inform the whole framework of their policy while others also have checklists of the knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes to be learnt.
26. About a fifth of authorities have used subjects as the main classification for their curricular analyses, while also taking cognisance of areas of experience. Others have taken a framework which starts by analysing the knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes to be learnt through the school curriculum. A few authorities have taken the 5 aspects of children's work described in Primary Education in England (HMSO, 1978) - language and literacy; mathematics; science; aesthetic and physical education; and social studies - as their starting point for an analysis of curricular policy for the primary phase.
27. Reflecting the value of a variety of approaches, very few authorities have rested their analysis exclusively on one classification. (The foregoing description deals only with the main analytic tool in use.) Rather, the 3 commonly used frameworks - areas of experience; knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes; and subjects - all appeared quite frequently in authorities' responses. Three quarters of responses referred to areas of experience; a third to the elements of learning; and a third to a subject-based framework. Supporting material submitted with responses included further cross-references to the different frameworks of analysis.
Breadth and balance
28. The Government believes that, to enable schools adequately to develop the potential of each pupil and prepare them for citizenship and for employment, the curriculum as a whole in both primary and secondary schools should be broad, introducing pupils to a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills. The curriculum offered to every pupil, of whatever age, ability and aptitude, should be broadly conceived so that it provides a wide range of opportunities for different kinds of learning and covers a wide variety of content.
29. The curriculum should also be balanced: each area should be allotted sufficient time to make its specific contribution, but it should not be allowed to squeeze out other essential areas. This need for balance applies to the allocation of time and resources to different subject areas, and also to the way in which they are taught.
30. This view of the need for breadth and balance in the curriculum commands widespread assent among authorities, and nearly all of the responses to Circular 8/83 explicitly recognised their importance, although authorities varied considerably in the extent to which they developed these ideas. For the majority of authorities, balance and breadth are to be achieved through the adoption of an appropriate curricular pattern. By analysing the areas of experience to which pupils will be exposed and, in some cases, the knowledge, skills, concepts and attitudes which they will have the opportunity to learn, most authorities believed that schools would formulate a curriculum which would
ensure proper breadth and balance. Some authorities also referred to an integrated approach to the curriculum in primary schools and a recommended core of subjects in the later secondary years as means of securing breadth and balance.
31. The Government in Better Schools elaborated on ways in which breadth and balance in the curriculum might be achieved, and some authorities in their responses explored these issues in greater depth. They recognised that the achievement of balance between the different areas of the curriculum was a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for a balanced programme of learning. They discussed the need to consider the balance achieved within each area in the way it is delivered. They addressed for example the need to vary teaching approaches so as to achieve a suitable blend of learning by investigation and by instruction, and of working individually, in small groups and as a class (see also paragraph 45). And some authorities looked at balance in terms of the extent to which particular skills are exercised, to ensure that none is practised too much or too little.
32. Since many aspects of learning are not confined to particular subject areas it is necessary to design the programme offered to individual pupils as a coherent whole, avoiding unnecessary duplication or gaps. The great majority of authorities are clearly conscious of this need. For many, this is evident from the policies they have formulated; for some, the idea of coherence is addressed explicitly and developed. Reference is made, for example, to the importance of co-ordinating the various parts of the curriculum and of ensuring that teachers understand how other aspects of the curriculum relate to what they are teaching. Emphasis is placed on identifying common ground between subjects to harmonise efforts and maximise effectiveness. Some authorities, however, have little to say about coherence and there may be a risk, especially when an LEA has delegated the task of drawing up the curriculum in detail to subject teachers or individual schools, that this aspect may not receive sufficient attention.
Continuity and progression
33. The Government believes that the 5 to 16 curriculum needs to be perceived as continuous. There should be continuity between the primary and secondary phases, whether or not this transition involves a change of school. There should also be progression: pupils should be given a progressively deeper understanding and greater competence in the different aspects of the curriculum, both within individual schools and over the whole period of their school education. To achieve these ends consultation and joint planning among teachers of different schools and phases is necessary.
34. Although fewer than a dozen authorities made detailed statements listing the measures to be taken in pursuit of continuity between the phases, most authorities made some reference to the need for it in their responses. Some LEAs specifically recommended that schools whose pupils transfer between them should exchange schemes of work. Others suggested that there should be mutual visits of teachers between the schools, for consultation purposes or in some cases to teach. Some authorities expressed the hope that staff of schools would listen to critical appraisal from colleagues teaching in a different phase. The transfer of pupil records between schools is common practice in LEAs, but the passing on of samples of children's work was seldom mentioned in authorities' responses. Some authorities whose schools are organised as pyramids have looked at continuity within the pyramids; these and other authorities have arranged area meetings for teachers. Other measures occasionally mentioned in responses included:
a. the role of advisers. Advisers in some authorities are working within individual schools on continuity. Others organise in-service training courses which span the transition between the primary and secondary phases;
c. linked syllabuses. One authority had established working parties to examine and monitor the construction of linked syllabuses, the modification of teaching methods and opportunities for professional liaison.35. Thus, although many authorities recognised in principle the importance of continuity between phases, relatively few described practical measures that would put it into effect. While the distinct concept of progression was not specifically raised as an issue in Circular 8/83, the fact that authorities' responses contained little guidance on it is nonetheless noteworthy. There may, however, be more reference to progression in the subject guidelines of those authorities who have produced them.
36. One aspect of the transition from the primary to the secondary phase is normally the change from teaching mainly or entirely by a class teacher to the teaching of individual subjects by specialists. In the Government's view this change should not be sudden. Pupils need to accommodate gradually to a situation in which they look for guidance to a range of teachers. Moreover, not all primary teachers are so expert in every part of the curriculum that they can teach each area in sufficient depth, particularly for older primary pupils. The deployment of staff within primary schools should take account of individual teachers' strengths and weaknesses, and the organisation of teaching for older primary pupils and the younger pupils in the secondary phase should be such as to bring about a gradual transition from class teaching to specialist teaching. For older primary pupils, the Government believes that this means introducing them systematically to teaching by members of staff other than the class teacher. Equally, in the interests of a gradual transition, there may be benefits in limiting the exposure of the youngest secondary pupils to the full range of specialist subject teachers, with the important proviso that such arrangements should still take account of teachers' subject qualifications and experience. When specialist subject teaching is established in secondary schools, steps need to be taken to ensure that this division of the curriculum does not result in a narrowing of focus and that the school is still able to respond to the full range of each pupil's needs.
37. The issue of specialisation was not raised specifically in Circular 8/83 but nearly a quarter of authorities dealt with it in some detail in their responses. For some of them the issue was made more significant by the existence of middle schools. The view often presented by those who dealt with the subject in detail was that there should be some involvement of specialists, directly in the classroom or in an active advisory capacity, at least from the age of 9. Authorities described the increasing use in primary and middle schools of teacher specialists in particular areas of the curriculum who could draw on the collective expertise of the whole staff to produce schemes of work, and could act as consultants to improve the teaching of their special isms throughout the school. Authorities referred to the need for such specialists to be allocated time away from the classroom when they could undertake developmental work. They stressed the importance of all members of staff working closely under the head or deputy head as a team, and they referred to the need for more advisory support in mathematics, technology, science and computer studies. Some authorities also mentioned the increasing use of peripatetic teachers to give specialist help at primary level and the introduction of "federal structures" to give small schools access to special isms that they lacked.
38. At secondary level the issue is not so much how to provide for specialisation in the curriculum as how to avoid narrow or excessive specialisation. In Better Schools the Government concluded that even in the fourth and fifth secondary years no more that 15 to 20% of pupils' time can be left for studying subjects which are freely chosen and supplement the compulsory and constrained part of the programme. Many authorities thought that the construction of a curriculum to encompass all the areas of experience would in itself secure breadth and balance and thus avoid too much specialisation. Some, like the Government, recommended a large core of compulsory subjects for 14 to 16 year olds. Others favoured a wider choice at this stage; some coupled this position with calls for better academic counselling and warnings against allowing choices of subjects to fall into a sex-stereotyped pattern.
Topics which span the curriculum
39. The Government believes that subject boundaries should be approached flexibly: some elements of a subject arise naturally in the teaching of another subject; and some aspects of the curriculum, such as health education and political education, may be best taught not as separate subjects but in the course of the teaching of a range of different subjects. In particular, the Government believes that to assign a special place in the timetable to courses labelled "peace studies" unbalances the curriculum and oversimplifies the issues involved. In secondary education the rigid subject divisions commonly found make it more difficult to give proper attention to cross-curricular topics in planning and delivering the curriculum. Because of these difficulties it is important to monitor schools' success in providing for aspects which span a range of curriculum elements.
40. Responses from authorities to Circular 8/83 varied in their treatment of cross-curricular matters. A third gave very little, if any, consideration to such topics and only a few reported well developed strategies for tackling them. At primary level, those authorities that addressed the matter are generally committed to cross-curricular objectives. They view the primary curriculum as a whole and recommend broad approaches using analyses based on areas of experience and the development of knowledge, skills, concepts and attitudes. There is support for topic work, and confirmation of the usual practice whereby one teacher takes a class for most of its work. Some authorities specifically look at approaches to the teaching of language and mathematics throughout the curriculum. Some also examine how the subjects taught at primary level may contribute to health and environmental education. There is interest too in analysis of the links between different subjects so that the teaching can be usefully co-ordinated.
41. At secondary level, while in principle LEAs are conscious of the need to consider the curriculum as a whole, their consideration of cross-curricular aspects was developed only to a limited extent. A fifth of authorities said that they encouraged consultation between the teachers of different subjects to identify each subject's contribution to the overall aims and objectives of the curriculum. Some authorities pointed to the cross-curricular character of
broadly based CDT and integrated science courses. Others referred to the use of computers in a range of subjects as a common bond, and "faculty" structures were mentioned as a device to forge links between subjects. In their responses many authorities recognised that personal and social development, health education and political education, for example, had implications across the curriculum, but some nonetheless envisaged that they should have their own place in the timetable and not be covered by eXisting curriculum subjects. Very little was said by authorities about the need to monitor cross-curricular aspects.
42. The Government believes that a school will, in order to achieve its curricular objectives, need to adopt an appropriately varied range of teaching strategies. The teaching needs to match the abilities and experiences of all pupils, and needs also to foster the development of personal skills and attitudes as well as conveying a body of knowledge. Any policy for the curriculum needs to spell out the consequences for teaching approaches.
43. Nearly a half of authorities made some reference to teaching approaches in their responses to Circular 8/83, but only about a third treated the issue as inseparable from the design and development of the curriculum. Some of these authorities saw the need to use a range of teaching approaches as an aspect of the balance to be achieved in the curriculum. The authorities who saw teaching approaches as a part of curriculum design often went on to reflect this in their supporting papers on different areas of the curriculum where detailed advice was offered on the teaching. Some authorities also expected schools' schemes of work to cover teaching approaches.
44. Authorities made a range of different comments on teaching approaches, but a common theme was the need to vary them and to avoid too much use of didactic styles. Some authorities advocated more practical approaches and problem solving. Several discussed the importance of fostering means of learning which specifically supported agreed aims and objectives for the curriculum. One authority suggested the need to achieve balance between: activities planned by the teacher and initiated by pupils; direct and indirect experiences; and
learning by direct instruction, investigation and creative expression. There were also references to the importance of keeping teaching methods under review: some suggested that this should be part of schools' self-evaluation procedures, others that local inspections should report on it.
45. Circular 8/83 asked LEAs to report on the steps being taken to ensure that the needs of pupils across the full range of ability are met in both primary and secondary schools. In Better Schools, the Government emphasised the importance of careful differentiation within the curriculum to ensure that what is taught and how it is taught are matched to pupils' abilities and aptitudes. The range of ability within teaching groups is often wide, and it is a task of the greatest importance for the education service to stimulate and challenge all pupils from the most to the least able. The pace and depth of learning need to be varied between pupils, but the range will be similar if breadth and balance are to be achieved.
46. As was reported in Better Schools, differentiation could have received more attention in authorities' responses to Circular 8/83. Only about one third of authorities discussed the matter in detail, and a few were concerned only with the most or least able rather than with differentiation throughout the range of ability. Where the matter was discussed in detail, authorities referred to differentiation according to pupils' needs or ability, usually having in mind intellectual rather than social or physical factors. Some statements referred specifically to the need for teachers to recognise and provide accordingly for variations in children's levels of development. There were a few references to children's backgrounds, aptitudes, interests and aspirations.
47. Authorities' guidance on how to achieve appropriate differentiation was often stated in very general terms, but three main strands may be distinguished. The first, which received most attention, concerns the internal organisation of schools where references were made by authorities to: individual learning programmes; setting by ability; group work in primary schools; and withdrawal from the class of groups of slow or fast learners.
48. The second strand concerns the need for variation in teaching and learning approaches to cater for the range of abilities and rates of learning within a class: although some authorities referred to this they gave few indications about how it might be achieved. The third concerns differentiation in the content of the curriculum. There were references to accelerated courses in secondary schools for able pupils and to differentiation of subject matter: in primary schools different tasks may be set within a common frame or additional material may be provided to enrich the work of the more able pupils; at secondary level additional subjects may be studied and slow learners supplied with specially designed materials to help them cope in normal classes. Reference was also made to modified courses for low attaining pupils.
49. About half of authorities made some reference to specially able pupils. Several LEAs have produced guidelines to help teachers identify and provide for them. A few have set up working parties or appointed co-ordinators to pursue this work. Special courses are organised at authority level, sometimes in cooperation with outside bodies, for pupils talented in music, mathematics, SCience, physical education and dance. Authorities commended various strategies within schools to extend the very able: special assignments; occasional withdrawal for individual tuition; and the use of computers to increase intellectual challenge and facilitate individual learning.
Special educational needs
50. Circular 8/83 invited authorities to include in their replies reference to steps taken in respect of pupils with special educational needs in ordinary schools. The law now requires that all such pupils should be educated as far as possible with pupils deemed not to have such needs, and the Government believes that essentially the same curricular framework and objectives should apply to these pupils as to all others in ordinary schools, although teaching programmes may need to be adapted or augmented to meet their needs. A school's response to its pupils with special needs is thus a particular example of differentiation.
51. Over half of the replies from the authorities referred specifically to pupils with special needs, and others enclosed separate papers on the subject. Their replies demonstrated a general commitment in the education service to the integration of special needs provision into the general structure of education in accordance with the recommendations of the Warnock Committee (in Special Educational Needs, Cmnd 7212) and with the Education Act 1981. A range of initiatives for children with special educational needs in ordinary schools were mentioned: in-service training; the appointment of co-ordinators or advisory teachers; strengthening support services; the use of teachers with special education qualifications in ordinary schools; and the production of special teaching materials.
52. In responding to the Swann Committee Report (Education for All, Cmnd 9453) the Government made clear its determination both that schools should give ethnic minority pupils the same opportunities as all others to profit from their compulsory education, and that the ethos and curriculum of every school should promote understanding and respect among all pupils for the different ethnic groups who now contribute to our national life. Many authorities in their responses referred to the implications of Britain's ethnic diversity for the school curriculum, and more than a third gave the issue detailed attention. A few of these authorities treated it as a central element in the design of the curriculum.
53. All authorities who reported on the issue recognised that its implications for the curriculum went beyond meeting the particular needs of ethnic minority pupils and beyond the elimination of discriminatory practices in schools, although these were important. They argued that the need to prepare all pupils for life in an ethnically mixed society, fostering attitudes which would promote tolerance and racial harmony, had implications for the whole curriculum. Consequently, responsibility for it could not be confined to one member of staff nor to one area of the curriculum but should be exercised by all staff as part of a policy for the whole school.
54. The Government believes that there can be no place for discrimination in the curriculum on grounds of sex. The responses from two thirds of authorities stated their commitment to the principle of equal opportunities for both sexes. A fifth went on to deal with the issue in detail. Not only did they advocate equal access to all areas of the curriculum and the avoidance of stereotypical assumptions based on a pupil's sex, but they went on to recommend that teachers take positive steps to encourage both boys and girls to take advantage of opportunities and succeed in areas which have hitherto often been seen as the preserve of one sex.
55. In Better Schools the Government has stated the principle that all subjects should be taught in a way which makes plain their links with the pupil's own experience and brings out their applications and continuing value in adult life. Both the balance between the subjects and the content and teaching of subjects should reflect the practical dimension to learning.
56. Circular 8/83 asked about the steps being taken by authorities to ensure that the curriculum is appropriately related to what happens outside the school, and includes sufficient applied and practical work. The responses demonstrate widespread agreement that the curriculum should be relevant. Some authorities reported the creation of working groups to investigate relevance and the practical content of the curriculum. A greater emphasis on practical problem solving and on an approach based on the development of skills was often mentioned; in respect of science, there was frequent reference to the importance of in-service training and the need to support teachers developing the practical and problem solving content of courses. Many authorities referred to the role of careers education. Social, moral and health education, economic awareness, and life-skills programmes were also noted as aspects of the curriculum which could be an important preparation for adult and working life. And some authorities referred to their encouragement of schools to establish closer links with the local community. Although the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) was still being developed at the time LEAs responded to
Circular 8/83, a number referred to its role in promoting a practical and relevant curriculum.
Links with Industry and Commerce
57. The Government has emphasised that the preparation of pupils for working life is one of the principal functions of schools. Links with employers in industry and commerce can be an important means of focussing a school's work in this respect. From their responses to the Circular, it is clear that virtually all LEAs now regard the development of links with industry as an important priority, although the involvement of employers in the development of curricular policy has not so far materialised in practice in many places. Regular work experience schemes for senior pupils have been devised in many authorities, and a number have established formal liaison groups involving advisers, career officers, schools and representatives of local industry and commerce. A sixth of authorities said they had appointed schools/industry liaison officers and about the same number referred to arrangements for seconding teachers to industry (some authorities had done both).
Mathematics teaching and the Cockcroft Report
58. Circular 8/83 asked authorities about the development of practical work in mathematics in the light of the Cockcroft Report (Mathematics Counts, HMSO 1982). Their responses generally recognised the need to include practical work and an element of problem solving in the mathematics curriculum at both primary and secondary levels. Some authorities referred to consultations with local employers to develop mathematics courses based on practical applications and relevance to working life. More generally, the influence of the Cockcroft Report was widely acknowledged and a number of authorities had produced guidelines for mathematics teaching since publication of the report. Many wrote of the importance of in-service training, and there were references to: the development of pupil profiles in numeracy; the appointment of curriculum leaders for mathematics in primary schools; financial support for curriculum development to implement the recommendations of the Cockcroft Report; and guidance for parents and governing bodies on schools' approaches to mathematics education.
59. This short account is based on statements by local education authorities written in a variety of forms at a particular point in time, since when new emphases have emerged and the effects of Government initiatives such as the TVE! and the Lower Attaining Pupils Programme have been more fully experienced and views about the importance of practical and technological work in subjects such as CDT have developed. It cannot reflect what has been carried out since those statements were written, nor will it reflect all that was being done by schools which went unreported in LEAs' necessarily selective responses to Circular 8/83. No written statement can fully portray the richness and variety of work on the curriculum being carried out in practice by individual schools and teachers. Nonetheless, many points emerge clearly from the responses and are supported by the other information available to the Secretary of State.
60. First and foremost, it is clear that general agreement is emerging both on the need for expressly formulated curricular policy statements and on many of the main aims to be embodied in such statements. The principles of breadth, balance and relevance are now well established in the thinking of most local authorities. As authorities themselves recognise, there is still much to be done to give their policies practical effect. The LEAs are at very different stages in this process, but the picture which emerges is of much progress at every level of the education service, involving governing bodies and sometimes parents as well as advisers, heads and staffs of schools.
61. While there is now little dissent about the need for curricular policies at LEA and school level and about some of the principles on which those policies should be based, the degree of common understanding about the way to put such principles into effect varies. Areas which stand out as meriting further attention in this respect include: the need for greater differentiation within the curriculum to meet the needs of each pupil, recognising that a wide range of ability and aptitude will be present in most teaching groups; the need for teaching approaches to reflect the curricular aims and objectives which have been formulated; and the need for practical steps to achieve real continuity between the primary and secondary phases, including continuity both in the curriculum and in teaching approaches.
62. Chapter 2 of Better Schools pointed the way towards a national framework of broadly agreed objectives for the curriculum within which LEAs, governing bodies, heads and teachers can act more effectively to improve pupils' education. It brought together principles of curricular policy on which there is increasing agreement. That chapter was illuminated by the responses to Circular 8/83. The task now at national level is to elaborate the framework described in Better Schools as the area of common understanding widens. Her Majesty's Inspectorate are currently publishing a series of documents in their Curriculum Matters series which are designed both to inform and to stimulate discussion. These documents will be based on the Inspectorate's judgment of the issues, which in turn derives from many sources, including particularly their observation of classroom practice and of the effects of local authority policies. The Government will from time to time consult on statements of national policy on individual subjects or aspects, like that published in March 1985 on science, Science 5 - 16: A statement of policy. These actions by the Government and HMI will represent a further movement towards agreement on the aims and objectives for the curriculum and will draw on good policy and practice at the local level. They will inform the Secretary of State's discharge of his statutory responsibilities. Equally, they are intended to support and encourage developments in the LEAs and schools.
63. Progress in defining and applying nationally agreed objectives can only be made as a joint activity involving all the partners in the education service and the clients they serve. The Government welcomes the evidence from responses to Circular 8/83 that much valuable work is under way throughout the country on the formulation of curricular policy. It looks forward confidently to further initiatives by local education authorities which will bring closer the broad agreement it seeks, and which will apply the agreed policies in practice to the needs of all pupils in primary and secondary schools.
Department of Education and Science