Education & Family

Government considers reading list for primary schools

A box of children's books at Tolworth Infant School, a primary school for boys and girls aged 3 to 7, January 2011
Image caption The proposal is part of the government's review of the entire national curriculum

Primary schools could be asked to teach an approved list of books and authors, under new plans being looked at by the government's curriculum review.

Set texts could be recommended for five to 11-year-olds in a similar way to how they are for secondary schools, it has emerged.

Some children's authors have hit out against the idea, saying teachers should not be "dictated to".

A review of the entire national curriculum began earlier this year.


Children's author Alan Gibbons criticised the idea of a booklist, saying teachers should have the freedom to choose what it appropriate for their pupils.

"What we need to see in schools is trust in teachers and librarians.

"We need a network of people who know about books and keep up to date with children's literature, who have the freedom to select books according to their pupils' backgrounds and interests," he said.

Meanwhile, Michael Rosen, author of We're Going On A Bear Hunt, said there was a difference between the sharing of ideas democratically, and a "totalitarian", top-down approach.

"I'm all in favour of people recommending books to each other. What I'm utterly against is some centralised list which is supposed to be the government's view or the state's view," he told the Times Educational Supplement.

"If [Education Minister] Michael Gove says who's recommending them, then that's democratic, that's the way we share ideas.

"If it's just a dictation that this is the way we read books, then we don't live in a totalitarian country, we're not in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia where they dictated what books you have to read."

'World-class curriculum'

Image caption Author Michael Rosen says the government should not dictate what should be taught

Under the current system, primary school children are expected to be introduced to a range of writing, but there is no centralised list.

Mr Gove has previously described England's educational system as having "lost its way".

He has raised concerns that many GCSE students are only reading one or two novels a year, suggesting that they should instead be reading about 50.

Last year, ministers announced plans for a reading test for six-year-olds in an attempt to increase literacy levels, with a pilot scheme planned for this summer.

The review aims to create a "world-class curriculum that will help teachers, parents and children know what children should learn at what age," according to a department of education spokesperson.

The spokesperson added: "We are currently reviewing all aspects of the national curriculum and will consult fully on the programmes of study when each phase of the review concludes."

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