Curriculum requirements letting down many pupils, school leaders say

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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The current national curriculum requirements in England do not allow schools to achieve the best outcomes for all pupils, especially those with SEND and English as an additional language, school leaders have said.

A survey involving almost 1,200 schools leaders from across England found that many believe the system is holding back a number of pupil groups, including those with SEND, those with English as an additional language (EAL), and those with an aptitude for vocational subjects.

The results found that 68 per cent of the school leaders felt that they lack the support needed to deliver the best outcomes for SEND children.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent said this was the case for children with EAL and 43 per cent felt the same for children with an aptitude for vocational study or technical subjects.

Overall, 79 per cent of the school leaders feel that the current curriculum requirements do not allow them to achieve the best outcomes for all of the pupils in their schools.

One deputy head in the South East told the researchers: “For pupils with EAL and SEND the new curriculum is too difficult for some of them to make sufficient progress that is measurable.”

Another added: “Both gifted and talented and pupils with SEN are restricted by the 'one size fits all' mentality of the new curriculum and assessment without levels.”

Furthermore, the survey found that over the next two years, 46 per cent of primary leaders and 44 per cent of secondary leaders are not confident in their school’s ability to sufficiently provide for pupils with SEND.

One school leader said: “The funding for pupils with SEND is not adequate and the referral system for top-up funding is too difficult.”

Of the school leaders who completed the survey, many cited more funding, flexibility in the curriculum or with assessment, and additional specialist teaching assistants as possible solutions to deliver better results for these pupils.

A headteacher based in the South West said: “There needs to be less pressure on curriculum objectives and a best-fit model for assessment. For example, a strong creative writer doesn't necessarily need to have good handwriting or spelling that meets age-related expectations.”

A SENCO in the East Midlands added: “The system needs a greater amount of flexibility as it is very rigid, archaic and discriminatory.”

Fergal Roche, CEO of The Key, which carried out the research, said: “No pupil should get left behind because the education system doesn’t cater effectively for their needs or abilities. The national funding formula and high needs funding formula being phased in from 2018 do recognise the need for money to be allocated to pupils with EAL and SEND, however we must make sure that the curriculum recognises and allows for the needs of all pupils, and that schools are given the support needed to ensure those with additional or more complex needs can thrive.”


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