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With all the focus on the election there has been little media attention to the abandonment of the Rose reforms as part of the rushed progress of the Children, Schools and Families Bill in the haste to dissolve parliament. Yet, this potentially represents a catastrophe for primary schools, the vast majority of staff at which were relishing the return to a more flexible and less prescriptive curriculum; and many of whom had already invested time and energy to curriculum planning and development to incorporate the changes (which had been presented to schools as ‘in the bag’).

With all the focus on the election there has been little media attention to the abandonment of the Rose reforms as part of the rushed progress of the Children, Schools and Families Bill in the haste to dissolve parliament. Yet, this potentially represents a catastrophe for primary schools, the vast majority of staff at which were relishing the return to a more flexible and less prescriptive curriculum; and many of whom had already invested time and energy to curriculum planning and development to incorporate the changes (which had been presented to schools as ‘in the bag’).

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Time might be spent on the whys and wherefores, given that the wastage involved in production, distribution and digestion of a primary curriculum that is now not to be implemented is scandalous - especially in the current economic circumstances. However, questions as to why the Conservatives and Lib Dems blocked these popular measures, and why the Labour government did not anticipate the timing issues, pale in comparison to the questions for educationalists as to ‘what now?’ for the primary curriculum.

Both the Cambridge and Rose reviews presented the urgency – expressed for years by practitioners – for a broader, more holistic curriculum, incorporating more flexible approaches to teaching and learning, that facilitated pupil and practitioner creativity and cross-disciplinary connections. While the two reports differed slightly in their recommendations concerning curriculum subject areas, they shared a pared-down model, with Rose reducing the current thirteen subjects to six areas of learning, and a devolution of responsibility to schools for shaping delivery.

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The shelving of these official plans is disappointing and frustrating. Rose’s recommendations may or may not re-emerge intact, depending on outcomes of the General Election. Nevertheless, momentum has begun towards the embrace of a more flexible and devolved curriculum, in policy but more importantly ‘on the ground’ in schools and local communities, which will now be hard to stem. In spite of the policy fate of the Rose review, our task must be to resist deflection; to embrace the moment and determinedly pursue our agendas towards a more appropriate primary curriculum. As Andrew Pollard notes in his discussion of the Cambridge Primary Review in the current issue of the British Educational Research Journal, the model of “state directed education and its systematic infrastructure of prescription, training, targets, assessment, competition and funding” is increasingly showing cracks. And many schools are already engaging innovative practice and interventions that disrupt the narrow boundaries of the National Curriculum, and re-inspire teachers to be creative in their practice. Among these I would like to include the RSA’s Opening Minds approaches to curriculum, as well as our Area Based Curriculum interventions. ‘Whole Education’, a multi-organisation programme currently ‘incubated’ at the RSA, is working to promote these kinds of approaches with support from an impressive range of educational, business and charitable organisations.

With documents like the hugely well-evidenced Cambridge Primary Review to support us, our task as committed professionals must be to continue to push the boundaries of the existing curriculum and to creatively apply the more holistic and connected disciplinary approaches so clearly required. With such momentum building, it will be difficult for politicians to stem the tide.

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