Teachers should deliver the same lessons at the same time, says former super head

Teachers should teach exactly the same lessons at the same time in school across the country, a former government adviser and head of one of the country’s leading academy chains has said.

Dame Sally Coates, a former super head, believes every child from the age of four to 14 should be taught the same topics from a prescriptive national curriculum at the same time.

The move would improve social mobility in schools and alleviate teachers’ workload, she said.

Dame Sally, who was handed her title for services to education while headteacher of Burlington Danes Academy in west London, added that it would allow schools to focus on teaching rather than what they should teach.

“Teachers and school leaders, freed from the pressures of curriculum planning, could focus on perfecting delivery in the classroom,” the director of United Learning told The Times.

“I know there aren’t many things that schools want imposed on them from above. A common curriculum and assessment framework is one such area and I would encourage the government to gather the courage to put this in place.”

The suggestion bears a strong resemblance to the system used in France, which is highly centralised and where the curriculum is the same in both primary and secondary schools.

Dame Sally said such an approach would benefit children from different social backgrounds.

“I find it incredible that schools are grappling with their own solutions to recent curriculum and assessment reform. What I see is a patchwork of alternatives, some of which are inferior versions of the previous system,” she said.

“The government should gather a panel of experts to design a model curriculum. This content would then be laid out in a logical, sequential format: year by year, term by term.

“From the age of four to 14 all children in England would study the same content and their success in grasping this content would be tracked. It would set out the exact content that students would cover in each subject and the exact order in which they would cover it.”

Any such system could be in place in as little as five years, she added, giving schools the opportunity to opt in to the curriculum before making it mandatory. The curriculum would then be reviewed every five years.

“Uniformity unleashes creativity,” Dame Sally said. “A common curriculum would encourage teachers, school groups and publishers to generate supplementary resources and expertise, safe in the knowledge that all schools would be following the new curriculum for years to come.”

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