Education: Curriculum Reform Not Just Exam Reform!

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McDonald’s along with several organisations from the world of business and education have taken part in a public consultation about producing a plan for recognising, developing and measuring soft skills at every stage of education and work. The ‘Backing Soft Skills’ consultation report can be seen via this link McDs-Backing-Soft-Skills which was released on the 1st July.

THIS blog is about why I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. Several of my comments have been used within the conclusions document produced by McDonald’s in preparation for the final consultation report. This document was emailed to with me in May. It can be seen via this link Backing Soft Skills – Conclusions of McDonald’s Stakeholder Consultation and Roundtable

I would like to see that this consultation is used as part of a movement to have a more balanced educational curriculum that involves academic, vocational and skills based learning having equal standing. I am not on my own in my thinking! Vocational and skills learning is being called for as part of a broad educational curriculum throughout business and education organisations.

The first piece of joined up thinking is through the McDonald’s consultation where 4 recommendations have been made;

1) Create a framework for defining, developing and assessing (formally and informally) at every stage of education and work.

2) Embed Soft Skills into education and work.

3) Improve links between business, education, JobCentre Plus and the youth and voluntary sectors.

4) Encourage government departments to join up more.

The second piece of joined up thinking came on the 19th June when the ASCL published a response by General Secretary Brian Lightman to a speech made by John Cridland (CBI Director General) where he stated;

“We agree with John Cridland that the education system needs curriculum reform and not just exam reform. He calls for the creativity of teachers to be unleashed to put in place a curriculum for 14-18 year olds which has the space for a personalised approach mixing key academic and vocational options.

“ASCL proposes that review of the core curriculum should take place only once in the course of any parliament and be the responsibility of a Commission made up of school leaders, governors, teachers, parents, industry and politicians. Beyond that core curriculum schools would determine their own curriculum, giving greater room for creativity and innovation.

“We also agree with Mr Cridland that an overhaul of careers advice is needed. This is an under-funded area, and yet it is a crucial element in ensuring young people are prepared for life.

“Mr Cridland calls for education to be everyone’s business. That is right. It is vital to the future of the country and everybody is a stakeholder.

“We welcome the commitment employers have been showing to work with schools.”


THIS is why a broad and balanced curriculum is important. It has been reported that the lack of skills in the UK work force costs business about £88 billion per year. Furthermore it is stopping people of all ages being able to get jobs or be promoted. The worst affected are young people coming straight out of education.

For me the whole point of education is to be work ready and to have the skills to be an effective citizen. Academic skills are very important too. I have always struggled with memory recall and wish that I could remember things for longer. That however may be an issue created by the exam system in itself. I seem to be able to store information for a week or so, then it just goes! Maybe that is because of the revision style I was encouraged to adopt to make sure that I was ready to pass the exams that I did take?

THIS is what has been missed by the current government (and past government over the last 5 years). In my opinion they have concentrated so much on exam reform and narrowing the curriculum choice, that they have missed the real point of education.

I have produced a few blogs suggesting how the educational curriculum could be broadened and reformed. This mainly builds on ideas produced by others. One in particular titled ‘A Different Baccalaureate Option For Soft Skills‘ explains how the new Welsh Bacc aims to address a more balanced curriculum. This would include a core suite of academic subjects, optional vocational subjects and a skills challenge certificate. A more recent blog titled ‘A National Baccalaureate‘ is also based on curriculum reform. The ‘Nat Bacc’ is currently being developed by a group of influential Headteachers in England who seem to be heading in a similar direction to the Welsh Bacc.

To reiterate; in my opinion education is about producing young people who are ready to have full and enriched lives in the modern world. If we are not creating THIS type of education curriculum then what is the point of THIS Education that we are providing?




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