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British MPs say school curriculum 'de-skills teachers'

The government wields too much central control over the lessons taught to pupils in England and has reduced schools to little more than a “franchise operation”, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday.

world Updated: Apr 02, 2009 16:22 IST

The government wields too much central control over the lessons taught to pupils in England and has reduced schools to little more than a “franchise operation”, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday.

The National Curriculum should be slimmed down and all schools given the freedom over teaching already enjoyed by new academy schools, the Children, Schools and Families Committee said.

“We heard how the level of central prescription and direction through the National Curriculum ... has de-skilled teachers,” the committee said in a report.

“At times schooling has appeared more of a franchise operation, dependent on a recipe handed down by government rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers.”

It called for a limit to the amount of the school timetable taken up by the National Curriculum, introduced 20 years ago.

“We take the view that the main purpose of a national curriculum is to set out clearly and simply a minimum entitlement for every child. “In its current form the National Curriculum essentially accounts for all the available teaching time.”

It said independent, state-funded academy schools were required to only follow the prescribed curriculum in English, maths, science and IT, and that all schools should be given the same liberty. Teaching unions backed the committee’s recommendations.

“The government should stop meddling and trust teachers,” said the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry rejected the committee’s conclusions. “It is frankly disappointing that this report perpetuates the myth that Whitehall is determined to wield an iron grip on every minute of every day in every classroom,” she said.

“The National Curriculum has been at the heart of raising the quality of education. No one wants to go back to the days where there were no minimum national standards for what children were taught and parents had no idea what was going on in classes," she added.