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The National Curriculum is failing our children


  • Leading academic argues Gove’s reforms could condemn pupils to failure
  • Paper calls for the abolition of Ofsted
  • Progressive curriculum will lead to global educational excellence

For further information and media requests:

Contact: Ellie O’Hagan
T: 0207 611 2571

As two of the country’s teaching unions prepare for their annual conferences, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) has today [Thursday] released a paper by leading education academic, Dr Terry Wrigley, calling upon Michael Gove to withdraw “ill-measured and premature targets” which resembles Victorian models of education and could condemn pupils to failure.

The paper, impressive in its breadth and scope, examines 150 years of the British education system and demonstrates how an historic commitment to mass education has led to a counterproductive emphasis upon formal learning, even in nursery school children, at the expense of play and creative and engaging activity. Dr Wrigley describes Michael Gove’s vision as a “hybrid of Victorian elementary school and mediocre prep school.”

The paper calls for the establishment of a new National Curriculum, incorporating the following:

  • Critical thinking: education should produce active and critically engaged citizens
  • Abolish Ofsted: teachers should be supported and trusted instead of subjected to threats and surveillance
  • Age-appropriate learning: education should teach skills and draw upon pupils’ life experience, instead of treating children like battery hens whose sole function is to memorise information
  • Flexibility: the curriculum should accommodate diversity of ability, instead of crudely separating skills into “vocational” and “academic”
  • Support and development of teachers: organisations from the past could be re-established, such as local authority teachers’ centres, advisers and curriculum projects; national projects and teacher networks; collaboration with professional associations such as NATE and ASE

Dr Terry Wrigley said: “Global excellence does not depend on battery-farming children. Powerful cognitive development and problem-solving abilities are perfectly compatible with a humane respect for children’s own pace of development. Sadly the predominant response from policy makers amounts to reinforcing surveillance and control, selection, competition and privatisation.”


Notes to Editors:

1. The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is a new think tank established in 2012 by Unite the Union, GMB and the Institute of Employment Rights to act as a centre for left debate and discussion and has the growing support of a number of trade Unions including ASLEF, CWU, FEU, GFTU, NUT, PCS, PFA, TSSA, UCATT, MU, NUM and BFAWU. Originating in the labour movement, Class is working with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies for today.
2. Dr Terry Wrigley is Visiting Professor at Leeds Metropolitan University and editor of Improving Schools journal. His writings bring together knowledge of education policy, school improvement, social justice, curriculum, and teaching and learning.
3. Recent books include Changing schools: Alternative ways to make a world of difference, Social justice re-examined: Dilemmas and solutions for the classroom teacher and Living on the edge: Rethinking poverty, class and schooling. He is currently developing the website as a resource to support campaigns for school change.
4. A copy of the paper can be found here:

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For further information, articles, interviews or media requests please contact Ellie O’Hagan on or 020 7611 2571