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4.1 It is our ambition to reduce unnecessary prescription, bureaucracy and central control throughout our education system. That means taking a new approach towards the curriculum. At over 200 pages, the guidance on the National Curriculum is weighing teachers down and squeezing out room for innovation, creativity, deep learning and intellectual exploration. The National Curriculum should set out only the essential knowledge and understanding that all children should acquire and leave teachers to decide how to teach this most effectively.
4.2 The National Curriculum was never meant to be the whole school curriculum – the totality of what goes on in any school. It was explicitly meant to be limited in scope yet in practice has come to dominate. We propose to take a new approach to the curriculum, which affirms the importance of teaching and creates scope for teachers to inspire. We want the National Curriculum to be a benchmark not a straitjacket, a body of knowledge against which achievement can be measured.
4.3 We envisage schools and teachers taking greater control over what is taught in schools, innovating in how they teach and developing new approaches to learning. We anticipate that in a school system where academy status is the norm and more and more schools are moving towards greater autonomy, there will be much greater scope for teachers to design courses of work which will inspire young minds. But there will still be a need for a national benchmark, to provide parents with an understanding of what progress they should expect, to inform the content of the core qualifications and to ensure that schools which neither wish, nor have the capacity, to pursue academy status have a core curriculum to draw on which is clear, robust and internationally respected.
4.4 Similarly, we must make sure that the standards set by our qualifications match up to the best internationally in providing a good basis for future education and employment. And while it is vital that at each stage in their education, there is good quality assessment of pupils to provide information for parents and others, we need to make sure that this is done without excessive drilling or narrowing of the curriculum.
4.5 Through reforming our curriculum and qualifications, more children should be motivated to stay in education or training. At the end of 2009, 183,000 16- to 18-year-olds were not in education, employment or training (NEET) – 9.2 per cent of that age group – and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to become NEET than their peers53. We must have high expectations for all young people, ensuring that they continue their education to age 18 and beyond and are supported to achieve to the highest standards.
4.6 We will:
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