The Cotswolds, sticky toffee pudding, fish and chips, the houses of parliament and an underperforming national football team are just a few of the things that run through my mind when someone mentions the word ‘British’. But perhaps, and wrongly so in my opinion, we don’t think of the British curriculum and the impact this has had over a prolonged period of time internationally. The standard bearer for education has somehow fallen by the wayside as we as individuals envelop more magpie like traits than we care to admit. Together let us take a journey through the British curriculum and what this means for the post-covid dysphoric world we live in (it is within my nature to be overly dramatic – I am calling this artistic license).
Allow me to reminisce and take you back to the 1980’s, Grace Jones on the cover of Vogue, Madonna singing about her holidays (I presume this wasn’t Butlins), leg warmers adorning many a dance enthusiast and a DeLorean hitting the magic 88mph. Whilst all of these play major significance within popular culture, through the haze of neon man made fibres we find a moment of lucidity in the 1980’s with the introduction of the Education Reform Act of 1988.
Arguably the most important reform in education since the Saxons introduced the ideas of schooling in the 6th century, the Education Reform Act came at a time of blind ambition and incoherence, with schools seemingly beholden unto no individual or authority. The Education Reform Act of 1988 sought to rectify this introducing responsibility for the education system under the supervision of Local Authorities (some schools needed slightly more guidance than others), mapping out key stages and student expectations throughout their time at school at these key checkpoints. Alongside all of this was a ‘National Curriculum’ introduced to ensure there was a consensus amongst all school with regards to what was deemed essential knowledge (I presume moon-walking is on there) and what is “the best that has been thought and said”. This clear edifying vision ensured that young people, regardless of background would have the opportunity to study a powerful curriculum, that is both broad and balanced and “helps engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievements”.
Culture Club are no longer asking us if we really want to hurt them, and neither Dynasty or their beholden shoulder pads are making their way onto our TV screens, so why does the Education Reform Act mean anything to us? Surely this relic should be cast off into the dungeons of past endeavor like Marathon bars and Depeche Mode, but would that be fair? Of course not.
The Education Reform Act was the basis for all the positives we see now. It laid the foundation of what we now consider the best educational curriculum the world has to offer, due, in part, to its unrelenting focus on “preparing pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”, and this sentiment and purpose has never been deviated from the newest iterations of the British Curriculum.
The Key Stages initially designed in the 1980’s are still being used today to disseminate groups of students into appropriate age brackets and placate the nation with standardized educational assessments at key periods. This model so standardized and refined has been adopted by the vast majority of the worlds highest performing nations, allowing students to benchmark themselves against their peers nationally whilst also being able to plot themselves against standardized key content expectations within each age bracket. Some educationalist may point to a fascination of comparison and a constant flirtation with performance tables and student scores, but why would we want to pretend to students that this is not the way the world really is? By the same taken why would we miss out on the opportunity to celebrate student’s success?
We now fast forward to the present, politicians seemingly wheeled out for PR stunts and nothing else, looking bedraggled, hair unkempt, suits unpressed and bluster being the plat du jour instead of any semblance of reason and genuine discourse. In contrast to this the British Curriculum has well and truly stood the test of time, its foundations more solid than ever, its scope far grander and its recognition internationally exponential.
“A balanced and broadly based curriculum which: promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of students at the school and of society, and prepares students at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life”. This aberration from the 2002 Education Act, gives us an insight into what the British Curriculum is capable of achieving in comparison to its less refined cousins. It is the embodiment of what we want both of and for our students, but also “the best that has been thought and said” this unwavering drive towards excellence is what sets the British Curriculum apart from other curriculums as well as the modern-day politicians.
“Nearly half (45 percent) of all international schools that teach the English language offer a British-based curriculum”, and for good reason the stability and recognition of quality and award id world renowned and why if Independent schools can they will always teach the British curriculum.
Below is an example of what the age round are with respect to age groups of students:
Extravagant and bedazzled we look upon the British curriculum with real sincerity but do not let this limit our own practice. Like a young Elton John stepping into the spotlight and a freshly sequined jacket we intend to build on and improve on the foundations set for us by the British Curriculum.
At IBOS we believe that the curriculum is what gives a school its purpose, it is what drives the learning experience of all of the young people in our care, what Dylan William called “the lived experience” of our students. With this pugnacious attitude we build own expectations of our school unerring in our drive and determination to ensure the best education possible for all our students.
How can we achieve such grandiose claims, I hear you cry, through a relentless focus on quality first Teaching and Learning. This drives the implementation of the curriculum at IBOS. Core subjects and core skills are taught through all year groups, with a ‘knowledge-engaged; approach, with the curriculum leaders ensuring that “knowledge underpins and enables the application of skills.” These core skills, learnt through English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities subjects, Modern Foreign Languages and other subject areas allow the establishment and development of the key skills. PE, Citizenship, PSHE, SMSC and British Values (taught explicitly and implicitly across the school) all play a crucial part in ensuring students understand of their place in the school, family and wider society (including as Global Citizens).
But most of all the curriculum embeds the majesty, mastery and mystery of education and learning so that the curriculum has encompassed “what matters most”. Surely something as glorious, highly respected and powerful as the British Curriculum should be what is thought of when we hear the word “British”.