I ask this question because I have increasingly noticed "The National Curriculum" being used as shorthand for everything that many home educators disagree with. It almost seems to be used as though the very phrase "National Curriculum" was interchangeble with "Structured Education" or "Conventional Schooling". I have also observed when listening to some home educating parents and reading what they write, that many of them do not apparently have any clear idea of what the National Curriculum actually is and why so many people, the present writer included, view it somewhat unfavourably.
My thoughts turned to this subject a few days ago when I read a post denouncing me and and all my works. Most of it was nothing to the purpose, but it did say the following;
" as far as he is concerned, if you don't follow the NationalCurriculum, then you are abusing your child by not providing them with aproper education."
This is a perfect example of the way that many parents on HE lists talk about the National Curriculum. Regular readers will be aware that I regard this horrible creation as monstrously bloated and hideously over-prescriptive. Not only did I not follow it myself, I seriously doubt whether any home educating parent has ever done so. Let me explain.
When my daughter was twelve, I felt that it was time to think about which IGCSEs she would be taking. We agreed on English, Mathematics and Science and I suggested History as well. She herself was keen to study religion, so we added that. As she took the three separate sciences rather than double award General Science and since she was also taking English Language and English Literature as separate subjects; this gave her a total of eight IGCSEs to study for over the next three years. I think I can safely assure everyone that studying for eight subjects in this way kept us very busy and although there was room for other things, it still took a good chunk of our time. Let us now suppose that we had been following the National Curriculum for Key Stage 3.
Well, English, Mathematics, Science, History and Religion are certainly there. So far, so good. However, that is only the beginning. As I said, those subjects alone kept us fully occupied. Now let's see what else we have to fit in to comply with the National Curriculum. Geography and a modern language. Hmmm that's pushing it a bit, but OK. We probably could just have managed this as well. Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology and Personal, Social and Health Education. Now it's getting silly! How on earth could we fit all this in as well? But wait, there's more. Art and Design, Citizenship, Music, Physical Education and Sex and relationship Education as well. As I said above, not only did we think it absolutely grotesque to try and cram all these subjects in, but I doubt if anybody could. Yet these are all compulsory under the National Curriculum. Any child aged between 11 and 14 must study all this. No wonder the academic results are plummeting in schools. They are too busy fooling around with a lot of nonsense about sex and relationships, as though that is any concern at all of the state!
Not only are the subjects themselves specified, but every minute detail is also laid down. Every pupil learns the same things at the same time in the same way in every maintained school. Horrible! And to think that I am supposed to be a fan of this. When I spoke to Graham Badman, I asked him about this because I knew that the rumour was floating around that home educators would have to follow the National Curriculum. He seemed genuinely astounded at the very idea. As he pointed out, it was bad enough making sure that schools do so, without trying to supervise eighty thousand parents as well. I have since come to the conclusion that those who were worrying about this did not really mean that they were afraid of being expected to stick to the National Curriculum. What they really thought was that they would be told to teach properly and adhere to certain subjects, for example making sure that their child was taught mathematics and English. No bad thing, you might say, but an awfully long way from being obliged to follow the National Curriculum.