The App Curriculum for 2014

03 Jan 2012 Exclusive to

By Roy Blatchford

As someone who helped redraft the current National Curriculum during the 1990s, I have more than a passing interest in its successor. The brave announcement by the Secretary of State of a curriculum postponement to 2014 invites opportunities for fresh thinking.

 According to recent press reports, David Cameron's advisers had a light bulb moment on a recent trip to the U.S. During 2012 the Prime Minister will add to his beloved iPad an app that will help him govern: a bespoke compendium of real-time performance data about the UK, from employment figures to NHS waiting lists.

 It is a truism of our age that the extraordinary becomes the commonplace - at a faster and faster rate. Imagine for a moment that a soon-to-be-revealed global brand donates an iPad to every 11 year-old in England. Let us say to the cohort starting secondary school in September 2014.

 That brand might possibly be Harper Collins, whose chief executive has predicted that 50% of fiction sales by mid 2013 will be eBooks. Or it might be Pearson, the world's premier education publisher and, incidentally, owner of Edexcel. Or perhaps Samsung, intent on securing the mobile allegiance of a generation.

 The iPad sells today for £399 in the UK. Technology giant Infosys predicts a similar portable device will sweep India within three years, retailing at $39. The extraordinary becomes the everyday.

So, in 2014, with every 11 year-old walking into secondary school with their own iPad, what then are the implications for a new National Curriculum, and for the predatory media giants?

 First, there will be an app for each subject. The science, art or history app will have three dimensions: one for pupils, one for teachers and one for parents. Each will be extraordinarily rich in interactive materials, to support and extend all learners.

 Second, each app will include continuous assessment and regular tests. This will mark the end of examinations at 16+ as we know them and, critically, help address the recently publicised 'corruption' of GCSEs.

Third, an abundance of edutainment materials around each app will surface from diverse international sources. On-line tutoring (Pearson's biggest growth business in India) will surge in popularity.

 Fourth, the class textbook will be in significant retreat, non-fiction books overtaken by the libraries of Wikipedia, Google and WolframAlpha. The interactive whiteboard becomes the relic of a bygone era.

 Given the transformational power of a curriculum delivered through apps, what government prescription will be necessary? And how can it be made reasonably future-proof, say for a couple of decades? The answer has to be 'less is more'. The starting point should be a set of fundamental outcomes: the knowledge, skills and attributes (the holy trinity of curriculum planners) we wish our young people to have.

 Borrowing from the work of American writer Howard Gardner I would suggest we want our students to develop five minds for the future: the disciplined mind; the synthesising mind; the creative mind; the respectful mind; and the ethical mind. These are the minds and dispositions of international citizens who will thrive in the coming decades.

 Using current subject terminology, my choice would be for just six cornerstone apps, with slim prescribed content from age 5 - 16:

 •   English  - rooted in a command of standard English and articulacy

•   Mathematics - benchmarked against the highest performing countries

•   Sciences - chemistry, physics and biology as discrete subjects, similarly benchmarked against the world's top performers

•   History - focused on a deep understanding of the major events and movements in our nation's narrative

•   Geography - with specific local, national and international dimensions

•   Art and music - introducing pupils to landmark artists and composers.

In summary, any central prescription from 2014 should be outcomes-led, and founded upon Matthew Arnold's powerful dictum 'the best which has been thought and said in the world'.

 And, in the spirit of creating a system of independent state schools, let teachers, head teachers and governors determine the rest locally. Let schools 'dare to be different' in providing high quality provision of philosophy, drama, sports, modern languages and vocational work, with specialist teaching starting from age nine.

 The Secretary of State has called for innovative, considered thinking and planning before 2014. My serious starter for the whole enterprise is to adopt an apps approach to the new National Curriculum. The 11 year-olds of 2014 can then mirror how the PM will soon be running UK plc.

 Roy Blatchford is Director of the National Education Trust and was a member of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority 1993-1997:

User Comments

Chris Husbands - 03 Jan 2012

The App Curriculum

Nice piece and it gets to something which has troubled ICT and education for more than a decade now: how do we make increasingly ambient technologies work effectively to support teaching and learning. Most of the technologies which have been most widely and enthusiastically adopted have been those which – paradoxically – deny the really significant potentials of technology: they are attentional and presentational (PowerPoint, interactive whiteboards), whereas social media technologies have been treated with suspicion in most formal educational settings. This is, of course, the reverse of the way in which most of us use and interact with technologies. So the issue which is not addressed here is about the tension between content and process, or, rather, how the process shifts the content. There is – I think – little point in a History app which does more or less what a textbook does. That’s not what apps do best. Indeed, in doing so, we end up with a content- led app which narrow s the focus o history and a discipline. Equally, and English app has surely got to be something which supports the development of spoken language (one of the strongest points of the Dec 2011 review). Similarly, not much point is an app for Art which presents. None of this addresses the underlying challenge of an app-based approach to thinking about resources: it tends to privilege content rather than process and to see learning as passive (related to the presentation of content) rather than an active process of exploration. To be really good, an art app would help students to make some connections between disparate ideas from a variety of online galleries in order to help them shape meaning. Roy is right than a curriculum needs to be outcomes led – but the headlines in his apps are all input based.

Rebecca Hanson - 03 Jan 2012

Agreeing with Chris - the technology can and should follow the curriculum.

I love the energy and free thinking in this post but also want to be sure that the purpose of the technology will be to support the curriculum rather than the other way round.

Readers of the UK Education group on linkedin my have noticed my commitments for 2012 there. One of them is:

"To see at least one viable business and technological model emerge which can provide schools with a low-stakes accountable formative and summative assessment which gives proper credit to a wide and growing range of knowledge, skills and personal students attributes (with the longer term aim of replacing SATS with something much, much better)."

I'll be at the ASE conference on Friday to meet some of the companies with aspects of the expertise required and to try and identify which have the vision to achieve this and inspire their plans for 2012.

The further Michael Gove stays away from all this the better. If he can get his house in order and behave in a coherent and planned way then fair enough but frankly I think Mr Blatchford's description of him as being 'brave' is slightly more positive than I can manage. A blooming massive liability more like it.

Tristram Shepard - 04 Jan 2012

New technology: old learning

It's not difficult to imagine all children having their own tablet device before too long - just as we now expect them to have their own calculator. And I expect they will indeed have a set of resource-based National Curriculum Apps combined with a perpetual series of impersonal right or wrong multiple-choice question memory-tests. All this is doing is automating the delivery of largely last Century knowledge - something a real teacher can probably do better.

We need to start to move from using new technology to deliver old learning, and the real-time, on-line interactivity of a tablet provides the potential to do just that. What we really need to come pre-loaded is a series of non-subject-based Apps that are appropriate to helping children develop skills for this century, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, communication and collaboration.

Hugh Parker - 12 Jan 2012


I don't think there'll be an app for each subject, exactly. The point of such a system would be that it was a way of students and teachers interacting on line; that's what a VLE is. I think it's more accurate to say that VLEs will continue to catch on, and in a few years we'll probably be able to access them from our phones and tablets.

Adam Jones - 28 Jun 2012

$39 device are you having a laugh???

The IT industry has been banging on about a £99 device for the past 5 years and still it is yet to happen. Component costs, shipping, Importation TAX, fluctuating dollar rates and multiple other reasons mean that this will never happen. If you were ever to get a device for under £100 it would also be completely usless based on the limitations of software applications. A single device for every requirement of a student within education is not achievable due to the diverse and ever changing environment of teaching and learning. Diverse and engaging teaching and learning methods are the key to a childs education not a $39 gimmick.

Essay-Tigers Help UK - 11 Mar 2015


Peoples have craze of mob app and technology and its boom time is running very must and peoples love to use new technology and they agreed to buy high price mob and app.

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