Wherever I am standing in front of trainee teachers, holding a copy of the local Agreed Syllabus, I have a dilemma. I know I should promote it but it feels wrong at every level. Agreed Syllabuses vary in quality, but all are written by the wrong combination of people, doing the wrong job for the wrong reasons. The system of Agreed Syllabus Conferences (ASCs) may once have had a purpose; but it is now an anachronistic, damaging waste of money. Thank goodness for this recommendation – we must move on from local syllabuses – and move now!
In subjects such as history or citizenship, we do not ask political parties to write the syllabus. Nor should religious representatives have a hand in controlling the religious one. We do not have local control of the geography syllabus even though the local area is studied. Artists are the subject of study in art, but teachers decide what is taught within a nationally defined range. In any subject, it is fine to consult local experts – but not acceptable to give them 50% of the power to determine content.
We live in a gloriously diverse and globally accessible world in which the justification for local syllabuses has long gone. We have access to religions and worldviews globally; global movements affect young people; and often local manifestations of a belief may be quite untypical or partial. Local religious representatives, no matter how well-intentioned, are not the people to decide this. In practice SACREs and ASCs are now so poorly resourced that they commonly resort to off-the-peg commercial syllabuses. Even the apologists for the present system agree that this reality cuts the ground from under their feet. They should take the obvious next step – working with the REC to shape a better future.
Academic Director CATS Colleges