Primary curriculum goes back to basics
A back to basics approach to primary school learning is revealed in the newly published draft National Curriculum programmes of study for English, maths and science.
The Department for Education believes that by raising standards in basics such as reading, grammar, fractions and basic scientific concepts, it will equip children to do more advanced work once they start secondary school.
In maths, pupils will be expected to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions and to know their times tables up to 12 × 12 by the age of nine.
English teaching will focus on spelling and grammar. There will be a list of words that all children should be able to spell by the end of primary school and they will have to know how to use the subjunctive and put their apostrophes in the right places. Once pupils have been taught to read fluently through systematic phonics, there will be a much stronger emphasis on reading for pleasure.
Science lessons will have a greater focus on the acquisition of scientific knowledge and the curriculum will have new content on the solar system, speed and evolution.
Programmes of study for other subjects will be published later this year. The government will maintain the requirement to teach art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music, and physical education across all the primary years, but shorter programmes of study than for the three core subjects will give teachers more freedom in these subjects. There are also plans for all children to study a foreign language from the age of seven.
The current system of National Curriculum levels and level descriptors, which the education secretary says are confusing for parents and bureaucratic for teachers, will be dropped.
The new approach has been criticised by Professor Andrew Pollard, who was one of four members of the expert panel that drew up the framework for the revised National Curriculum.
Professor Pollard says the education secretary, Michael Gove, gave the panel instructions ‘to trawl the curricula of the world’s high performing countries, to collect core knowledge, and put it in the right order’, influenced by the ideas of the American educator E.D. Hirsh. He describes this approach as ‘fatally flawed without parallel consideration of the needs of learners’.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said the proposals contained positive suggestions but need a thorough review by those who must deliver them.
By David Gordon