Times Education Commission Interim Report criticises narrowing of the… Jump to main content

Times Education Commission Interim Report criticises narrowing of the curriculum and accountability measures

The ISM welcomes the Times Education Commission’s interim report, published on 26 January 2022. The findings highlight the negative impact of accountability measures on the curriculum and the Commission calls for a ‘radical reshaping’ of an ‘out of touch’ education system.

The Times Education Commission was set up last year to examine the future of education and to draw up proposals on educational reform in ten key areas including the purpose of education, social mobility, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. The report collates seven months of evidence from over 300 school and college leaders, teachers, employers, scientists, artists, writers, pupils, parents and politicians, including 11 former education secretaries and two former prime ministers.

The report references the decline in the number of pupils taking creative subjects, including D&T, music, drama and performing arts and the negative impact of accountability measures on creativity, including the drop in the number of entries to subjects not included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). This echoes the findings of previous ISM reports such as Music Education: State of the Nation.

Accountability measures are criticised for their ‘single-minded focus on grades’ which have ‘undermined the broad and balanced curriculum that should be offered to all young people’. The report also quotes an OUP survey of secondary teachers which found that less than half think the curriculum is ‘broad and balanced’ with 82 per cent saying that the current accountability system is ‘overly concerned with academic achievement’. The ISM has previously called on the DfE to review and reform both the EBacc and Progress 8 accountability measures to provide a better education for our children.

A number of key figures are cited in the report as calling to reform GCSEs, including Lord Baker of Dorking (who oversaw the introduction of the National Curriculum and GCSEs when he was education secretary), Sir John Major, Lord Blunkett, Lord Adonis and David Miliband. It also cites a recent survey of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference (HMC) which found that 94 per cent of respondents believed that GCSEs needed complete or partial reform.

Lord Baker, in a letter to The Times on 26 January, welcomed the Commission’s report while raising concerns that the Department for Education ‘will resist very strongly the commission’s recommendations and will defend the Gove curriculum of Progress 8 academic subjects, the English Baccalaureate, and the existing methods of assessment at age 16 and 18.’

The Commission’s final recommendations will be published in the summer and will build on the interim findings.