Curriculum adviser says changes 'flawed'

School pupil The curriculum review sets out changes for lessons in primary schools from September 2014

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The proposed changes to the primary school curriculum in England have been condemned as "fatally flawed" by an expert adviser to the review.

Professor Andrew Pollard has written a blog distancing himself from the plans for English, maths and science.

He argues that the proposed curriculum is too narrowly prescriptive for the "real world of classrooms".

The Department for Education said it wanted to "restore rigour in what primary schoolchildren are taught".

'Constraining'

Prof Pollard, writing in an Institute of Education blog, warned that the proposals published by the government earlier this week failed to recognise the range of ability levels, particularly the less able.

He warned that the level of prescribed detail would have a profoundly "constraining" effect on teachers in the classroom.

Start Quote

The approach is fatally flawed”

End Quote Professor Andrew Pollard Institute of Education

"The approach is fatally flawed without parallel consideration of the needs of learners," writes Prof Pollard.

The claim was rejected by the chair of the expert panel, Tim Oates, who said the revised curriculum was "not some rigid straitjacket".

"There remains flexibility for schools in the scheduling of content," said Mr Oates.

And he said that the proposals drew on the experience of studying 18 international school systems.

Tougher maths

The proposed changes to the primary curriculum in England call for a more challenging approach to maths, science and English.

Pupils in primary schools will be expected to know their 12-times table by the age of nine.

There are also plans to scrap the current system of levels used for Sats tests and measuring pupils' progress.

In maths, the curriculum review wants to ensure strong foundations in adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, so that pupils are ready for more stretching maths topics in secondary school.

In science, there will be content added on the "solar system, speed and evolution", with an "increased focus on practical scientific experiments and demonstrations".

The lives of famous scientists, such as Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton, will also be studied.

Earlier announcements proposed that learning a foreign language would be compulsory from the age of seven.

In changes to English, there will be a greater emphasis on learning grammar, and pupils will be expected to be able to recite poetry.

League table tests

The other subjects of the primary curriculum will be kept - with a continuing requirement for art and design, design and technology, geography, history, ICT, music and physical education.

But there is a major change proposed for how achievement is measured - with plans to remove the current system of levels.

Start Quote

Politicians who have been in the job for two years are presenting a heavily prescribed curriculum as a fait accompli”

End Quote Mary Bousted ATL teachers' union

These levels are used by schools to measure pupils' progress - and the percentage of pupils reaching Level 4 at the end of primary school is the key measure used in primary school league tables.

Such measures are also considered by inspectors - and the level system advances through primary and into secondary schools.

If the levels are removed, according to the proposed timetable it would mean a different system of grading and league tables for tests taken in the spring of 2015.

Education Secretary Michael Gove says that the current system is "confusing for parents".

There has been no decision about what would replace the levels, but, in a letter to Mr Oates, Mr Gove says there would need to be another way of measuring achievement.

"Some form of grading of pupil attainment in mathematics, science and English will therefore be required, so that we can recognise and reward the highest achievers as well as identifying those who are falling below national expectations," writes Mr Gove.

Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers welcomed the "abandonment of awarding levels", but said she wanted to see the detail of any replacement grading system.

The leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, Brian Lightman, said that this would also mean scrapping the level system in secondary schools - and warned of a "vast amount of uncertainty".

'More demanding'

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the curriculum review had positive changes in science and in encouraging reading for pleasure.

And he said that the new versions of maths and English would be "more demanding".

But he said the "proposals are less dramatic than they seem at first glance".

"Nine out of 10 primaries already teach a foreign language. Phonics is also already widely used, and speaking and listening are similarly encouraged."

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