I started teaching when the National Curriculum was introduced into England.
At the time, it seemed a mostly benign affair; it issued little more than statements of accomplishment. Stuff like 'pupil can express an opinion'.
At the end of the school year, we sweated teachers filed paperwork statements on how the National Curriculum was applied to each pupil. We called them Gas bills.
You could twist the statements round to fit what had happened in the classroom. Tinkertop can express an opinion. Tinkertop actually threw Buddy at the wall and screamed I HATE THIS SHIT! Sounds like an opinion to me.
But most importantly, nobody told you what should be in any lesson, nor how to teach it.
Then the years went by, and bit by bit, nibble by nibble, teachers were no longer the professionals in charge of their classrooms, thinking up exciting and interesting ways to get Crusher to read Buddy, even when Tinkerbell opines that it's crap. They had a prescribed lesson content to deliver.
The content was pre-determined; at one point you could pull lessons off a government web site. So I guess it didn't matter if the PE teacher was covering the English class again. Anyone could drop them an email saying here's the lesson you're delivering today at 11.15.
That shift - telling teachers what to do, when to do it, and how - was to try and stitch everything up, all round. The teachers could be monitored all the better, control over the curriculum could be tightened, Ofsted could be given an earner, and exam boards had a ready-made brief to run a tighter business.
The irony is, the tighter they stitched it, the looser it became. Private organisations up and down the country started to offer the very same targeted and attainment-focused lessons, particularly at primary. They offered them as an outdoor alternative to the drear of the classroom, and they offered them without assessment. Teachers may as well deliver that; that's what schools are for, isn't it, to be assessment centres?
Now you can probably email your local wildlife park Education Officer asking what modules they make available for Key Stage 2. They have it all sorted.
So this is what we did today, at Stanwick Lakes. It's a pre-set packaged module, off-the-shelf, available to schools, community groups, home educators. A school could call it the term's outing for Key Stage 2 Geography.
We call it meeting a ranger, hearing about the history and work of a quarry, the restoration of wildlife areas, the leisure industry, then a short walk across the site to identify areas in the talk.
After that, the home ed kids went off to play around the site for hours in the sunshine.
The school kids went back to school, probably to be given information about the assessment.