Education & Family

Labour warns on curriculum 'diktat'

Classroom Image copyright PA
Image caption Labour says ministers should not decide on which books pupils study

Labour is calling for England's school curriculum to be based on the needs of a modern economy, rather than the political "pet projects" of ministers.

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell says the "ministerial diktat on the curriculum has gone too far".

Ms Powell is calling for a wider range of interests, including business, to be involved in deciding what pupils learn.

A Conservative spokesman said businesses and universities had already helped to shape the new curriculum.

In her first major speech on Labour's view of the curriculum, Ms Powell will criticise excessive political involvement, saying that the choice of classroom topics and books should not depend on the "whim" of ministers.

Political involvement

"We should never allow the situation to arise again where ministers are personally writing individual programmes of study for schools or prescribing the specific texts young people should study," says Ms Powell, in a speech to be delivered at an education conference in Sheffield.

Before last year's general election there were calls from head teachers for the curriculum to be decided by a non-political, arm's-length independent body.

But Ms Powell will not support such a move, arguing "it is right that politicians as elected representatives and the government of the day have a view on the core subjects that all young people are entitled to".

Instead she will call for a wider range of voices to be involved in setting the curriculum, so that pupils are ready for the needs of a changing jobs market.

"I want to see a broader-based process for curriculum development that links better to the needs of business, society and the knowledge and skills that we need for a strong economy," Ms Powell will say.

The national curriculum is compulsory in local authority schools, but not in academies, which are now a majority of secondary schools.

A Conservative party spokesman said: "The fact that Lucy Powell is suggesting something we did five years ago is further proof that the Labour party haven't got a single original idea when it comes to raising standards in our schools.

'We have toughened the national curriculum, reversing years of Labour's dumbing down and failure, so that it properly prepares young people to succeed in life and we've done so by working with businesses and universities so it meets their needs."

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