This blog is part of a series in the spirit of ‘Cranleigh Thinking’, intended to provoke thought and debate and raise questions. The arguments are born out of observation and experience and I make no apology for holes and gaps for readers to fill and question.

This particular series raises questions about the nature of curriculum, national policy and why Cranleigh has chosen the ‘Cranleigh Thinking‘ approach.

The word curriculum derives from the Latin word ‘currere‘, to run. It is a running course, sometimes understood as a race. Unpicking the race analogy provides some interesting insights.

  • If a curriculum is a course, then this provides some form of standard structure in which the runners compete. It gives direction and prevents chaos. It also allows comparability between runners. Who is most skilled at navigating the course? It also allows focused training.
  • If a curriculum is a race, then there will be winners and losers. This is especially so if all the runners are in the same race. Some will have trained more effectively; some will be better suited to different lengths of race; others might be better off in a different race altogether or even sticking to field events!
  • Whether it is a course or a race, the course is set by someone other than the runners. Those in charge of the course set the obstacles and set the rules and the entry standards.
  • Runners are either on course and successful, off course for a period of time or out of the race.
  • It is often time or distance limited, putting extra pressure on the runners to complete within a defined space. Moving to a different course is rendered more difficult and whoever is off course or out of the race cannot easily start another course without being behind. There may not even be another course.
  • A course or a race is by its very nature a closed loop and can exist and be judged only in terms of itself. The runners in a 400m race all run the course and someone will be a winner but the success of the course does not necessarily depend on the performance of those within the race. It is simply a 400m with differing outcomes each time it is raced. However, if we begin to put a context of purpose which is broader, we question the validity of the loop. If runners are preparing for a life of 400m races, then the course is appropriate. If it is to help then run a marathon then its validity is limited only to some related skills such as speed endurance training, lactic acid and biomechanical training. It is not the best preparation.

The big question for the course-setters in central government is whether they are allowing their runners to run with a purpose. Are they even in the right race?