DES Circular 8/83 (1983)

In this circular, the government asked local education authorities to report on progress in reviewing the curriculum offered in their schools, as requested in Circular 6/81 (1981).

Local education authorities' responses to this Circular were summarised in the Report on the Circular 8/83 Review: Local Authority Policies for the School Curriculum, published by the DES in June 1986.

The text of DES Circular 8/83 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 15 June 2009.

Circular 8/83 (1983)
The School Curriculum

Department of Education and Science
London: 1983
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Circular No. 8/83
8 December 1983.


'The School Curriculum'

1. All the partners in the education service have their respective responsibilities for the standards of school education. The Secretary of State recognises that the partners need to work together to this end. His aim is to facilitate the discharge of these responsibilities through genuine cooperation.

2. Circular 6/81, issued on 1 October 1981, asked each local education authority, in consultation with governors, teachers and others concerned and in the light of what was said in The School Curriculum:

(a) to review its policy for the school curriculum in its area, and its arrangements for making that policy known to all concerned.

(b) to review the extent to which current provision in its maintained primary, secondary and special schools was consistent with that policy; and

(c) to plan future developments accordingly, within the resources available.

Circular 6/81 also said that the Secretary of State looked to governors to encourage their schools, within the resources available, to develop their curricula in the light of what was said in The School Curriculum; and it drew the attention of authorities and governors to the Secretary of State's view that schools should set out in writing the aims which they pursue through the organisation of the curriculum and in teaching programmes, and should assess regularly how far the curriculum matches the stated aims.

3. The actions taken by local education authorities to develop policies for the school curriculum have a direct bearing on a number of the Secretary of State's responsibilities, including those for the training of teachers and for dealing with proposals for the organisation of schools. He now asks authorities to inform him of the steps which have been taken since the issue of Circular 6/81 by authorities themselves and by the teaching staff and governing bodies of schools. He recognises that reappraisal of policies for the curriculum inevitably takes time, involving as it does a good deal of planning and consultation, the development and progressive implementation of new policies, and the monitoring of results. He therefore wishes to make it clear that he regards the process of implementing Circular 6/81 as a continuing one. He will inquire in due course about subsequent developments. In addition to the responses to this Circular, the Secretary of State is regularly informed by HM Inspectors about developments in the curriculum nationally and locally; authorities are invited to keep district HMI in touch with the development of their policies for the curriculum.

4. The School Curriculum was concerned with the curriculum offered to pupils of compulsory school age. The Secretary of State hopes that the responses to this Circular will concentrate on that age range, but he would not wish to deter authorities from offering in addition, if they wish, information about policies for the school curriculum for those aged under 5 and over 16.

5. The Secretary of State now asks each local education authority to provide:

(a) a report on the progress which has been made in drawing up a policy for the curriculum in its primary and secondary schools: the Secretary of State would be grateful to have a copy of any relevant policy document or documents;

(b) a description of the roles played in the processes of drawing up the policy by heads and other teachers, governors, parents and other interested parties in the local community;

(c) a brief statement of the ways in which the policy is being given or will be given practical effect in the schools, giving specific examples where appropriate and including any consequences for the deployment and management of the teaching force and for the internal organisation of schools;

(d) a summary, giving examples where appropriate, of the steps being taken and planned by the authority to seek to ensure that the curriculum is planned as a whole: that for each pupil it is balanced, coherent and suited to his or her ability and aptitude; and that the needs of pupils across the full range of ability (including the most able) are met in both primary and secondary schools;

(e) a summary of the steps being taken and planned by the authority to ensure that the curriculum is appropriately related to what happens outside school, and includes sufficient applied and practical work, particularly in mathematics (on the basis recommended in the Cockcroft report) and science;

(f) a statement of how far the resources available to the authority for staffing, non-teaching provision, arrangements for the professional development of teachers and the provision and organisation of advisory services are enabling it to give effect to its policy for the curriculum.

Action in respect of special schools is being pursued separately: the Secretary of State would be grateful if authorities, in replying to the above points, would refer as appropriate to steps taken in respect of pupils with special needs in ordinary schools.

6. The Secretary of State would also be grateful to have a summary of the steps which have been taken by primary and secondary schools to set out their aims and to assess regularly how far the education they provide matches those aims. He would be glad to know how far, in the authority's view, the aims adopted by individual schools are compatible with the authority's policy for the curriculum. The Secretary of State would be glad to receive examples of those aims formulated by schools which the authority regards as being particularly useful in the process of self-evaluation by the schools and in informing parents and employers about the schools' aims.

7. Circular 6/81 was addressed to local education authorities and to the governors of voluntary aided secondary schools. In that Circular the Secretary of State expressed his confidence that the governors of aided secondary schools would wish to play their full part, consistent with their statutory responsibilities, in the development of policies for the curriculum. He now asks authorities to say what role has been played in those processes by the aided secondary schools in their areas.

8. The Secretary of State would be grateful to have responses to this Circular by 30 April 1984. He has it in mind:

(a) to take up with individual authorities any aspect of their responses which seems to him to be of special interest;

(b) to publish his conclusions about the responses; and

(c) to seek further reports in due course on steps which authorities are taking in regard to the curriculum in their schools.

D. J. S. Hancock,
8 December 1983.

To: Local Education Authorities
      The Governors of Voluntary Aided Secondary Schools.