I’m uncomfortable with the notion of banning anything in the curriculum. That’s not a language that sits comfortably with educational institutions, which are about learning and discovery.
Rather than specify the detail of what should be in and what should be out – and schools are absolutely weary of endless change in the curriculum – I think the real issue is about how we discuss and debate the changes that we want in a way that generates a consensus about what it is that we’re trying to do, and therefore create something which will last, and which people have got time to invest in and make it better.
"A lot of people are asking the question about vocational versus academic subjects, and there’s recognition historically of an inequality in the way those different routes are perceived."
That will come about through a process of developing a consensus about what it is that we want to do, and then creating a framework which is a balance of things that we expect to be happening in school and things which people in their communities – teachers, parents, local stakeholders – want to see there. There should be space in the curriculum to reflect local aspirations and expectations as well, and balance that with national priorities.
But how do we have that discussion to create something that’s supported by high levels of commitment and, because vast numbers of people agree on it, is likely to be enduring? What we do at the moment is that Governments impose change, it doesn’t have support, is often not popular, and people expect it to change again in the near future – so as a consequence people become cynical, weary of change, and unwilling to invest in new initiatives because they’re sceptical that they’re going to last. It’s completely the wrong way to do policy.
"We have to help people think differently about these sorts of issues, and it requires us to be much more radical than we’ve probably ever been previously."
A lot of people are asking the question about vocational versus academic subjects, and there’s recognition historically of an inequality in the way those different routes are perceived. It’s an issue that’s not unique to the UK. Almost everywhere I go would say something similar. Securing that parity of esteem is, I think, a really important objective of a radical rethink of the curriculum.
People are having those discussions, and those ideas are out there, but what it also requires is for parents and students to have a better understanding of the issues – otherwise people tend to default to this notion of academic being better. So we have to help people think differently about these sorts of issues, and it requires us to be much more radical than we’ve probably ever been previously. And by that I mean an education system where the academic and the vocational become much more integrated.