Policy, Politics and Curriculum and Assessment Change in Northern Ireland


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Presentation by Carmel Gallagher and Ruth Leitch, Queen's University Belfast at ECER 2010. : Curriculum Reform in Four Nations: a home international perspective: A network 23 symposium

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Policy, Politics and Curriculum and Assessment Change in Northern Ireland

  1. 1. Curriculum Reform in 4 UK Nations A Home International Policy Symposium <ul><li>Policy, Politics and </li></ul><ul><li>Curriculum and Assessment Change </li></ul><ul><li>in Northern Ireland </li></ul><ul><li>Will the assessment tail </li></ul><ul><li>continue to wag the curriculum dog? </li></ul><ul><li>Carmel Gallagher </li></ul><ul><li>Ruth Leitch </li></ul><ul><li>Queen’s University Belfast </li></ul>
  2. 2. Structure <ul><li>Theoretical frameworks </li></ul><ul><li>Curriculum Reform Processes </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment Reform Process </li></ul><ul><li>Main Messages </li></ul><ul><li>Recommendations </li></ul>
  3. 3. Theoretical Framework re: Curriculum Reform Processes <ul><li>Evidence informed policy making </li></ul><ul><li>Harold Lasswell ‘Founding father of public policy as a field of study’ </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose of policy analysis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ not to produce 'evidence' to drive policy. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rather a process of public learning in which decision making is opened up and made more democratic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Donald Schon (1972) </li></ul><ul><li>in an increasing unstable and uncertain world, there needs to be </li></ul><ul><ul><li>less centralised government control </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>more opportunity to innovate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>people and institutions need to be flexible and agile </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not bogged down in protocols and bureaucracy that are slow to change. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>governments should be concerned less with controlling and managing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>more with acting as a facilitator of society’s learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ designing policy processes and institutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Schon 1973: 28 cited in Parsons 2002: 6). </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Theoretical Framework re: Curriculum Reform Processes <ul><li>Evidence- based policy making (EBPM) </li></ul><ul><li>David Blunkett speech to ESRC Feb 2000 asking for </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a more rigorous approach to inform government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ what works and why </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>what types of policy initiatives are likely to be most effective’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>favours ‘overwhelmingly quantitative approaches’ that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ can be ‘managed’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to inform ‘overall strategies’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to exercise strategic control’ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Approach characterised as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a form of governmental 'control freakery‘ to secure objectives and policy 'targets' </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Stacey, 2002: 50) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Processes informing the development of the Revised NI Curriculum <ul><li>Pupil Cohort Study (3,000 pupils over 7 years) </li></ul><ul><li>Teacher Monitoring (face to face critical feedback) </li></ul><ul><li>Curriculum 21 Conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Commissioned research </li></ul><ul><li>Literature reviews </li></ul><ul><li>Independent advice to government </li></ul><ul><li>Phased development involving stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>Proposals </li></ul><ul><li>Widespread consultation </li></ul><ul><li>Research-informed implementation strategy </li></ul><ul><li>Support materials </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot projects </li></ul><ul><li>Phasing in of requirements </li></ul>
  6. 6. Constraints on Assessment Policy Development <ul><li>Performance culture </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment data (age 8, 11, 14, 16, 18) </li></ul><ul><li>Selective education system </li></ul><ul><li>Contentious abolition of 11+ </li></ul><ul><li>Search for replacement mechanism to assist transfer to post-primary e.g. pupil profile </li></ul><ul><li>Failure to achieve consensus </li></ul><ul><li>The development of unregulated tests </li></ul>
  7. 7. Literacy and Numeracy Strategies Audit <ul><li>Prominence given to Literacy and Numeracy Strategies </li></ul><ul><li>VFM audit of £40 million expenditure on Strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Hearing before House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct of PAC hearing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ politicians talking nonsense about educational outcomes’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Audit report ‘qualifications’ ignored </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Invalid comparisons made and demanded (Glasgow, Liverpool, Belfast) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statistics misinterpreted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of awareness of impact of selective systems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of understanding of target setting and adjustments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No awareness of comparable (worse) performance in England </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suspected manipulation of English National Statistics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reprimand by Statistics Office </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Impact of PAC and NI Policy <ul><li>Continued narrow pre-occupation with Literacy, Numeracy and Assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Retention of old levels to assess new curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>Retention of voluntary tests at Key Stage 3 </li></ul><ul><li>Delay in approving new cross-curricular levels </li></ul><ul><li>Reluctance to absorb thinking skills levels </li></ul>
  9. 9. Main points <ul><li>Incongruence in policies </li></ul><ul><li>Backwash effect of narrow assessment pressures on curriculum </li></ul><ul><li>Mixed messages to schools </li></ul><ul><li>Tensions / pressures on teachers and schools </li></ul><ul><li>Limitations and fallibility of narrow assessment statistics & standards </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of understanding / misinterpretation of statistics and over-simplistic reporting by media </li></ul><ul><li>The effect on parental and public perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Society sees results as the major goal of schooling </li></ul><ul><li>rather than a useful but fallible indicator of achievement’ </li></ul><ul><li>(Gipp 1990: 27). </li></ul>
  10. 10. Recommendations <ul><li>Effort and expense expended in ‘policing’ poor quality assessment </li></ul><ul><li>Focus resources on professional development for </li></ul><ul><ul><li>quality curriculum planning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>quality assessment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>development of higher order thinking </li></ul></ul>