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Research Intelligence

Read the editorial from issue #139: ‘Re-examining the curriculum’

As the convenors for the BERA special interest group on Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy, we have developed this themed issue to re-examine the curriculum from varied perspectives. Although the curriculum is central to what happens in schools, questioning what and who it is for and how it is best structured to engage student learning has been less central to deliberations, while the status of pupil outcomes measures has loomed ever larger.

A curriculum ‘turn’ seems to be on the horizon as the consequences of promoting curriculum outcomes over curriculum breadth, balance and experience are increasingly realised. Within this issue of Research Intelligence (RI) are thoughtful expositions of the curriculum across the four jurisdictions of the UK. These illustrate how the curriculum has been conceived and enacted though policy, and outlines some of the ways in which it has been remoulded and redirected as policy is translated into practice.

In this issue we have ensured that the curriculum debate is approached from a number of different angles. However, we recognise that our coverage is only partial. With the following articles we hope to open up a debate about how the curriculum might be rebalanced in our schools. There are many within BERA who have skills and expertise to contribute to forthcoming consultations and considerations about curriculum change. We also need to remember the previous theoretical and practical insights on the curriculum that shaped both the curriculum and teachers’ practices several decades ago. How might we re-evaluate Stenhouse’s contribution to look afresh at connections between curriculum development and teacher development? Teachers are active agents in the production of the curriculum in classrooms. They are the drivers of the curriculum, and this issue of RI is shaped to combine the voices of practitioners and theorists to help inform and sustain discussions that will be necessary if any meaningful curriculum change is to take place.

Such change might be articulated in two contrasting ways. Firstly, BERA’s recent report on close-to-practice research (Wise, Brown, Oliver & Poblete, 2018) emphasises the importance of aligning thinking about the curriculum in terms of process as well as practical outcomes. Secondly, there is a clear need for creative, rigorous thinking and discussion about the curriculum in ways that can enrich the future of education for and with teachers and pupils.

When we give serious consideration to the curriculum, we see that ‘Who is it for?’ is not the straightforward question that it might seem. As Mike Dore points out in this issue, the curriculum becomes part of the individual story of every pupil as they build on their knowledge and experience inside and outside school. This can never be fully captured in any policy. Ensuring that pupils are supported to access and engage with the curriculum in ways that enable them to learn in broad and varied ways must be a key feature of any curriculum. Unless the curriculum is ‘for’ the students it is probably, by any meaningful definition, redundant.

By Ruth Dann & Chris Hanley
Guest editors, Research Intelligence issue #138. 

This article is the editorial to a special issue on ‘re-examining the curriculum’, published in the latest issue of Research Intelligence (#138), BERA’s members’ magazine. Access to Research Intelligence is just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of BERA.


Stenhouse, L. (1975) An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development, London: Heinemann.

Wyse, D., Brown, C., Oliver, S. & Poblete, X. (2018). The BERA Close-to-Practice Research Project: Research Report. London: British Educational Research Association. Retrieved from researchers-resources/publications/

Full contents of the special issue

  • The Interrelation of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment / Ruth Dann
  • A School’s Perspective on Curriculum / Mike Dore
  • Conceptualising the Curriculum / Michael Young
  • The Curriculum in Northern Ireland / Lesley Emerson & Caitlin Donnelly
  • A New Welsh Curriculum / Nigel Newton
  • Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence / Mark Priestley
  • The Long Search for a National Curriculum for England / David Lambert
  • Arts Activities and the Curriculum / Kate Pahl & Steve Pool
  • Curriculum in Early Childhood / Elizabeth Wood
  • Curriculum Matters: Ofsted’s research on the curriculum / Daniel Muijs, Alan Passingham, Katherine O’Shaughnessy & Charlotte Vidal-Hall
  • Curriculum Studies: A re-emerging field of inquiry / Editors of the Curriculum Journal

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