A knowledge curriculum can be a powerful force in combating educational inequality.
One of our ambitions at Michaela Community School, which opened this year in Wembley, is to place knowledge at the heart of education.
We believe, as Francis Bacon did in 1597, that knowledge is power: it empowers all children to achieve, choose their future and decide what legacy they’d like to leave.
We believe that broad cultural and historical knowledge improves all pupils’ academic achievement, especially poorer pupils. Even the very weakest pupils can study the greatest books ever written, such as Frankenstein, Oliver Twist and Animal Farm. All pupils deserve the chance to see Shakespearean theatre, fine art and classical music as accessible to them, not alien to them: access which richer pupils take for granted. Knowing about democracy, its origins, evolution and discontents empowers pupils to make their own minds up as citizens in politics, referenda and elections.
We believe that powerful mathematical and scientific knowledge empowers pupils to choose among the most competitive and selective vocations, such as (to name just a few) medicine, finance, engineering, technology and law, as well as to appreciate how the world works, in all its wonder.
Science backs these beliefs. Over a century of research into memory, learning and the mind has produced conclusions that are not scientifically challengeable:
As cognitive scientist John Anderson says, ‘All there is to intelligence is the simple accrual and tuning of many small units of knowledge that in total produce complex cognition.’ Our logic is as follows:
The more knowledge you remember, the more curious you become.
The more knowledge you remember, the more intelligent you become.
The more knowledge you remember, the more you achieve academically.
The more knowledge you remember, the more choices you have for your future.
That is why we place the liberating force of knowledge at the heart of our school. Only a cohesive, cumulative, carefully sequenced knowledge curriculum will close the 10,000 word vocabulary gap between the poorest and wealthier pupils aged 11, narrow the 28% gap in GCSE attainment between poorest and wealthier pupils aged 16, and reduce the 80% gap between poorest and private school pupils attending University aged 18. The reason we want all pupils to have secure subject knowledge is because we think it is the best route to social justice.
A knowledge curriculum can be a powerful force in combating educational inequality. We hope that in time, knowledge-led schools will win the hearts and minds of the teaching profession.
Next blogpost, I’ll turn to the question: which knowledge?