How about this for a curriculum review?

Just some of the design based industries located in Cornwall, a visual aid prepared by one of my team.

After more years teaching than I care to admit to in public I have reached the stage where I really don’t expect to hear anything original by way of an excuse.  One of my pupils stopped me in my tracks this week; “My parents are redecorating my little brothers bedroom and he has lots of snakes so they had to move the snake tank into my room and it is right in front of the chest of drawers where I put my homework and it’s too heavy to move.”  Yep, that one wins a prize!

On a more serious note it is now official; we are launching our own baccalaureate.  Let me be the first to say that we are in no way intending to cash in on the excellent reputation of the International Baccalaureate, we are just calling it that to bring it into line with government thinking.  After all, Mr Gove is convinced that his E-Bacc will equip  young people  for a fast changing, technological world of the future where the capacity to generate wealth for the country will be immeasurably enhanced by their performance in the traditional curriculum subjects that he proposes to measure.  We think differently.  We live in a part of the country with a low wage economy where the only real option for talented youngsters is to move away, they can’t reasonably hope to buy a house because prices are driven beyond the ability of the local economy to support them.  Kurt Jackson put it succinctly when he described his hometown, not many miles from here as, “a post industrial town in a post industrial landscape, with a fading fishing industry, a struggling farming community and an expanding population.” (In Art of England, issue 94)  

However, as the map in the image at the top of this post suggests we have a lot of creative talent; some local, increasingly driven by the thriving University College Falmouth which has taken care to support start up businesses as well as produce graduates.  This shapes a vision for the future prosperity of Cornwall that rests on talented and inspired individuals exercising their talents in a world market, based in the county.  True, the large scale primary production and engineering has in many ways passed into history but the productivity of the next generation will be based on the creative and design based producers.  This will cover a wide range of enterprise from food based producers adding value to high quality foods produced locally, to artists of all shapes and sizes, to high tech engineering and product design, to digital technologies, to one of a kind designer makers.  The list goes on.  As the map suggest this is already starting to happen.  Many designers, artists, digital technologists and craftworkers have realised that opportunities exist to reach world markets from a remote but beautiful location.

One more little appreciated asset that we have is that a  significant proportion of the world’s internet traffic passes through the county which is a distribution node on the information super highway.  Largely thanks to the early trans Atlantic cables coming ashore in the south of the county and the early radio transmissions the infrastructure has persisted and been successively modernised.  We are one of the first regions in the country to have access to super fast fibreoptic broadband, a project that our children were involved with from the very beginning.  So what sort of curriculum would encourage the skills and attributes that our children need to capitalise on these opportunities?  If you are reading this you won’t need to think too deeply to anticipate what I might suggest.  The good news is that our school is going to trump Michael Gove and the English Baccalaureate.  You will recall that the announcement of this as a measure of success was soundly criticised by the House of Commons select committee for a variety of reasons, not least that there was no mechanism for keeping track of which students had attained it and none for issuing certificates.  Not to worry, we have both of those covered!

At our awards evening when we present exam certificates to our recent year 11 and award them richly deserved prizes the school will also be issuing St Ives Baccalaureate certificates to those who have achieved exam success in a broad range of subjects that are of particular relevance to the vision of the future economy that I have outlined.  Our portfolio of subjects will reward those who have achieved success in English, maths, science, design technology and creative arts.  Of course many of then will also have a foreign language and a humanity to their credit and indeed many of them may go on to make good use of both in the international world that they will be living in.  What we want to celebrate is the breadth of talent that we see in our school year by year, a breadth that seems to us to have far more relevance for our pupils embarking on their 21st century lives than perhaps the governments suggested range of subject does.  A breadth that may indeed equip our children for the rebalancing of the economy that we talk so much about,  that will give due credit to the enormous range of personal attributes and personal learning and thinking skills that these subjects reflect.  In simple terms the ability to succeed in the world of the future.

Come on Mr Gove, how about it?

2 Responses to “How about this for a curriculum review?”
  1. tristramshepard says:

    The St Ives Bacc sounds just brilliant! I think this represents a model for what all schools should be doing – creating and marketing a school-based qualification that will be appropriately valued and recognised as worthwhile by the local community. I would much rather employ a school-leaver with an award from a local school I knew that had a reputation for producing the sort of employees I actually wanted than I would someone with a string of non-practical academic subjects.

    • Hi Tristram, glad you like the idea, as you can imagine I certainly do. I think you are right about the localised curriculum but it is such a tragedy that so much expertise has been put into developing such courses, the JCB sponsored engineering vocational qualification springs to mind, only to have the rug pulled by ill informed politicians. Perhaps it is time for the education community to start establishing it’s own success measures.

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