The Coverage Curriculum

The coverage curriculum is the one that has us all running scared.

It’s a bit like the ‘health and safety’ of the curricula world. You must know that moment when you’re losing an argument that you desperately want to win and so you say, “but… Health and Safety…” Suddenly your opponent’s arguments come crashing down as you play the ultimate trump card. Well, ‘Coverage’ is a bit like that.

The thing with the coverage curriculum is that it is what is generally defined by Government. It’s the thing that civil servants print in black and white and subsequently ministers approve. It is the bottom line – the statements that set the learning objectives for the coming year. It is the mother ship of medium term planning: a hive-mind structure with hordes of little alien fighters that dart out to inflict teaching upon unwary students.

And so the Coverage curriculum begins its life already feeling superior to the three other curricula – Standards, Preparation and Education-for-education’s sake. In fact, given an intergalactic battle, ‘Coverage’ probably thinks it can take all three of the others put together. But it is not that kind of fight. In fact it shouldn’t be a fight at all. If teachers are not weighing up the standards their children need to achieve, with the preparation they need for the next stage, alongside the things that they love teaching about, then coverage will just become a meaningless exercise in box-ticking. And coverage will just drift off into the stars, its once mighty engines slowly being overcome by entropy.

That is what happened to the old National Curriculum. As a coverage document it was set up to be enhanced by the other three curricula. But when it didn’t work initially, or quickly enough, government concluded that they needed more coverage – so they designed National Strategies and other initiatives. They sent out more paperwork, often in fancy plastic boxes, sometimes with videos or CD-ROMS included. Each of them accentuated the coverage. Now you could cover citizenship, and problem-solving, and safety, and, lots of other things… But a trick was missed. More coverage was not what was needed. It was not the big issue.

And it has been interesting over the last year also. A new curriculum has been introduced at the same time as new teacher standards, new ways of funding schools, new legislation for special educational needs, new legislation for paying teachers, new frameworks for inspecting schools (at least two of these)… the list goes on. And yet the new thing that has caused most conversation and concern amongst teachers has been the new (coverage) curriculum.

It is important, but it isn’t the most important thing. It is September 2014 and the new curriculum is already two weeks old. Anyone noticed any really significant changes yet?