Teacher’s letter to Mr Gove sparks curriculum backlash

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A secondary teacher has started a backlash against Michael Gove’s national curriculum reforms, with a petition that has attracted more than 2,500 online signatures – and counting – in a matter of days.

Debra Kidd, who is studying for a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University, started the petition on her blog but it soon grew as word spread on social media.

The support from the grass-roots comes in response to what teachers consider to be too short a consultation period over the new national curriculum, as well as the education secretary’s quick dismissal of critics to his reforms.

Ms Kidd was one of the 100 academics who signed a letter to Mr Gove last month, published in The Independent, which raised concerns about the methods that teachers were expected to use in the classroom and the “endless list of spellings, facts and rules” children would have learn under the new curriculum. He responded by calling them “The Blob” and “bad academia” and said too many teachers had been pushed towards “ideologically driven theory”.

Ms Kidd, who teaches at Saddleworth School in Oldham, was due to hand in the petition to MPs on the Education Select Committee on Monday.

She said that teachers were tired of a ‘yadda-yadda’ approach being used by Mr Gove to dismiss criticism. The education secretary used the “yadda, yadda” expression during a recent BBC Question Time.

Ms Kidd told SecEd: “I don’t expect Mr Gove will listen, as so far he has not listened to people far more important than me. But teachers feel increasingly isolated by this government.”

She said that teachers were not opposed to imparting knowledge or their pupils acquiring it. 

She continued: “I don’t know of any teacher who thinks pupils should not know facts. But they need to have the skills and tools to acquire that knowledge and to equip them to learn. Mr Gove doesn’t seem to have grasped this.”

She added that teachers were surprised at Mr Gove’s conduct: “He often behaves like a child who has not yet learned to listen and respect boundaries.”

Ms Kidd wrote in her blog: “We do not oppose the acquisition of knowledge. Nor do we oppose the idea all children should succeed. We question the wisdom of the decontextualised testing of knowledge and the notion that there should be high-stakes testing in which children’s futures become fixed once and for all.”

She added: “(Mr) Gove proposes the removal of second chances and mistakes. It amounts to the removal of hope and that is the real enemy of promise in this debate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said of the proposals: “We are giving every school more freedom and trusting teachers to use their creativity to shape the curriculum to the needs of their pupils.”

You can sign the petition at http://bit.ly/12OhY8L

See also SecEd Editorial: Curriculum review is sidelining expert opinion.

CAPTION: Ms Kidd's open letter to Michael Gove has garnered more than 2,500 supporting signatories.


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