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Schools: Curriculum

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

2. What steps he is taking to ensure that schools are able to shape the curriculum to their own pupils’ aspirations and priorities. (145453)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education recently announced our proposals to reform the new national curriculum. In addition to being more rigorous in the core subjects, the new national curriculum will also be much slimmer, meaning that schools will have greater freedom to design lessons that inspire and motivate all their pupils.

Will the Minister join me in encouraging schools to deliver a curriculum that not only meets the aspirations and priorities of pupils but reflects the needs of local employers—core skills such as maths and English as well as vigorous vocational qualifications in engineering, computer science and technology?

There is much more scope in the new national curriculum for schools to develop programmes involving design, technology and computing to prepare students for high-tech roles, as well as improving their maths and English core skills. The computing curriculum now focuses on programming and understanding how computers work, and has been developed with the British Computer Society. We are also introducing a new technical baccalaureate that will provide a high level of technical training, including maths for students up to the age of 18.

Flexibility for schools is welcome, but what is the minimum time parents should expect their children to spend on sport and physical activity under the new national curriculum?

We are ensuring that physical education is a core part of the curriculum for children aged up to 16, and we have introduced new topics to the subject.

I am worried about the curriculum for children who are currently being flexi-schooled. The Government recently announced—without consultation and without notice—the abolition of flexi-schooling, which has existed for decades and which meets the needs of many children. How will the Minister ensure that the needs of those children are met in the immediate future?

We will ensure that our attendance procedures are absolutely correct, so that we know whether students are at school or not. If they are being home-schooled, that is a decision for their parents; if they are at school, they must be properly at school, and their attendance records must be properly monitored.

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, to wish Her Majesty a speedy recovery?

The Minister is actually making the curriculum less flexible. For instance, she is insisting that primary school children will have to study Dafydd ap Gruffydd. Can she tell us about Dafydd ap Gruffydd, and can she spell Dafydd ap Gruffydd?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, in that we are ensuring that students gain a good chronological understanding of history throughout their school career. During my own school career, I spent one lesson studying Sir Francis Drake and the next talking about the princes in the tower. I would certainly have preferred a school career that enabled me to learn about chronology and understand our island story.