The NAHT has noted with interest publication of the draft primary school curriculum
for English, Maths and Science, but says the proposals need a thorough review by those who must deliver them.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said some of the proposals announced on 11 June looked promising. However, he added that schools already delivered much of what was being suggested. He also warned against attempts to impose teaching methods on schools: the curriculum should describe what is to be taught, while teachers should decide how to teach it.
Mr Hobby said: “NAHT will examine the new programmes of study for English, Maths and Science in detail over the coming weeks. In our minds, the curriculum review is perhaps the most significant reform yet, and one with great potential to affect standards. It is worth remembering that well over 90 per cent of schools will remain bound by its terms for the foreseeable future.
“At first glance, there are certainly positive suggestions:
- The scrapping of levels as a means of reporting children's progress is helpful - the current levels do little to inform or involve parents. Of course, what will replace them remains to be seen, and we expect to be fully involved in those discussions
- A leaner science curriculum gives time to embed core concepts securely. It seems to us that the focus on key concepts and knowledge - rather than formulaic replication of the scientific method - is the right emphasis at primary stage. Understanding the world will pave the way for a genuinely scientific mindset later; it is also fun for younger children
- In English, we see a clear emphasis on the pleasure of reading a broad range of fiction and non-fiction books which will be a welcome counter-balance to the recent heavy emphasis on phonics. Plenty of attention is paid to planning writing and talking about writing. In the long-term, this should greatly improve the quality of composition and argument
- The description of the curriculum in terms of year-by-year growth of understanding at first sight creates a worrying volume of work. However, we feel this is probably more structure rather than more content. To the extent that this structure helps schools teach the right thing in the right order at the right time, it will probably come to be found helpful
- We further welcome the assurances of no additional statutory assessments and no changes to key stages. This is an incredibly sensitive area that could act as a flashpoint with the profession. We will look forward to thorough discussion of how assessment will need to change to reflect the new curriculum but expect the proposals of the Bew Review to be protected
- The programmes wisely refrain from telling teachers how to teach, leaving decisions on delivery and organisation to schools themselves.
“However, some of 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. Close engagement with nature and outdoor working is a feature of many primary schools.
“There is no doubt these programmes are more demanding, particularly in Maths and grammar. It is appropriate to express high expectations in a statement of curriculum aims, but schools will need time and support to develop their teaching to reach those aims. Let's ensure that these programmes become a source of inspiration rather than a cause of desperation for schools.
“We must also ask where the promised curriculum freedoms will be found. The existing breadth of curriculum will be retained and the published programmes are not substantially lighter. We note assurances that the forthcoming programmes in other subjects will be significantly slimmed down and will watch closely for this. In these promised freedoms lies an opportunity to re-awaken professional creativity and enthusiasm by focusing on what motivates many teachers. In unsettled times, this is an opportunity that must not be missed.
“A more considered evaluation will follow when members have had time to digest the full documents. We hope - and expect - that this is part of a debate rather than a done deal.”
Page Published: 11/06/2012