Commenting on plans by the Education Secretary to establish a new independent Government body to ‘support teachers’ in the creation of curriculum content, Rosamund McNeil, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"We’re interested to look at the new curriculum support body and how arms-length it will be, as the devil is going to be in the detail. It must be both a broad church and genuinely independent from Government. Teachers want to collaborate and develop their subject knowledge but have much less time to do this than in other countries. The new body must value teachers’ expertise and genuinely harness it so that we can support collaboration. We’re pleased that the resources will be free and developed with a wide range of teachers, avoiding a narrow focus on one approach to the curriculum.    

"We understand that the use of this new curriculum body’s resources will not be compulsory or prescriptive, and this is something the Department for Education must make clear in its messaging. Teachers will have genuine questions about this as the DfE’s approach has previously been too directive and nationally prescribed, with one clear example being on reading. It is helpful that this will be at arms-length from the DfE and we encourage the Department to give it genuine flexibility to draw on evidence and teacher expertise, and different approaches to the curriculum.    

"The procurement by the new body also needs to be transparent and not rely on a narrow range of Trusts or partners to develop the curriculum maps.    

"This could be a positive part of the recovery education jigsaw but only if it goes hand in with reducing the rigid accountability targets which stifle innovation and learning across the profession, and with proper recovery funding. The White Paper must signal a new approach and move away from the narrow accountability targets which generate a narrow curriculum, the feeling of schools becoming exam factories, and the dramatic intensification of teachers’ work.    

"We hope the body can take us towards an era of less centralised control by the DfE over how and what teachers teach.    

"We need to create time for teachers to collaborate because this is in terribly short supply and a resilient profession requires actual time for teachers to learn from each other.  This has got to be tied to a conversation about how to broaden the curriculum during and after Covid-19 and to respond to the disruption to learning. The DfE is going to need to win more investment for recovery education and catch-up, as highlighted in today's Education Committee report. There is no path to ‘lesson plan’ our way out of Covid-19 without the necessary investment in academic and mental health support.    

"The Secretary of State says that ‘the biggest asset we have in changing the lives of children for generations to come is the energy and expertise of our teachers and school leaders.’  But the Government needs to invest in this huge asset - or it will continue to fail to recruit, retain and value the teachers and school leaders we need.  The Government must implement and fully fund the increases in pay for all teachers and school leaders that are needed to ensure urgent restoration of the pay they have lost in real terms over the last decade."