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The most important subject

Having been in schools for quite a while now, it’s interesting to see how different subjects come in and out of fashion, depending on which way the political wind is blowing or who’s in charge.

Early in my career, and following the deindustrialisation of the UK economy, Design and Technology (DT) was the subject championed to reverse the nation’s fortunes. Afternoons were spent ‘deconstructing’ objects, figuring out how they were made, then designing, making and evaluating new products – and the children loved it. I seem to recall that for a while DT was a ‘core’ subject, right up there with English and Maths.

Roll on a few years and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) took over as the country’s most important subject. Teachers like me, who had grown up with clockwork toys and a Mamod steam tractor, were all of a sudden required to get to grips with word processing, spreadsheets and the Internet. I remember one teacher getting very confused when the cursor on her screen wouldn’t move as she clicked the mouse, mid-air, at her screen. Teachers were never going to be as good at mastering ICT as the children, who are now genetically hard-wired to understand it.

Maths and English made a bit of comeback with the National strategies, science came and went (then later came back again); which coincided with the rise of the latest most important subject, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG).

Championed by Michael Gove, the introduction of formal methods of teaching the more technical aspects of writing had a positive impact on, er… the technical aspects of children’s writing, and significantly, saw the resurgence of the semi colon.

I have long championed the introduction of a subsidiary subject to support SPAG, namely Botany, Ornithology and Linguistics (BOL). Incidentally, I loved the fact that the DFE recently changed the order of SPAG to GPS, presumably to put an end to my pathetic jokes, or perhaps to help parents navigate their way through the quagmire of educational acronyms (another pathetic joke).

Roll on to today and we now have a new most important subject: Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), although I note there is some debate as to whether and extra ‘E’ has been added for ‘Economic Education’ – PSHEE?

It was interesting to note Ofsted Chief Amanda Spielman’s comments at the weekend, who suggested that, along with everything else, teachers are now taking on traditional parenting roles, including toilet training, maintaining a healthy weight (of the pupils) and aspects of personal safety such as awareness of knife crime. I recently attended a talk given by Dr Janet Rose, an expert in child development, who told her audience that in a few years time, the next core subject will be Child Development and Parenting (CDP), with a compulsory GCSE. Given the direction that education is heading, I’m sure in a few years’ time, we’ll all be arranging CPD in CDP.

William