100 academics savage Education Secretary Michael Gove for 'conveyor-belt curriculum' for schools

Leading figures from universities warn new curriculum promotes 'rote learning without understanding' and demands 'too much too young'

Education Editor

Michael Gove’s proposed new national curriculum will severely damage education standards by insisting children learn “endless lists of spellings, facts and rules”, experts are warning. In a letter to The Independent, 100 education academics warn that the new curriculum promotes “rote learning without understanding” and demands “too much too young”.

The academics, all of whom are either professors of education or teach in university education departments, write: “This mountain of data will not develop children’s ability to think – including problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity.”

Their intervention means the Education Secretary faces dissent on yet another front over his education reforms – coming just 36 hours after teachers’ leaders warned of strike action over plans to squeeze their pensions and end automatic annual incremental pay rises for the profession, plus opposition to his plans to force under-performing schools to become academies.

The signatories to the letter, who include leading figures in the world of academia such as Professor Terry Wrigley, from Leeds Metropolitan University, who co-ordinated the letter with Professor Michael Bassey from Nottingham Trent University, said: “A system which is very, very heavily prescribed and which encourages cramming through tests actually reduces fairly sharply the development of thinking. The pupils memorise just enough detail to get over the hurdle of the tests.”

Professor Wrigley added: “I think if these reforms go ahead it will be miserable for the children. Secondly, I think it will put further emphasis on memorisation and rote learning rather than understanding.”

The academics’ intervention also follows a controversy over changes planned for the history curriculum – where historians and teachers claim the proposals neglect world history in favour of the chronological learning of facts about British history. Sir Richard Evans, Regius Professor of history at Cambridge University, said they would restore “rote learning of the patriotic stocking-fillers so beloved of traditionalists”.

Under Mr Gove’s plans – out for consultation until mid-April – children should be taught standard English with more weight given to spelling, punctuation and grammar. In maths, they should know their times tables up to 12 by the age of nine and start learning about algebra and geometry by the time they leave primary school.

In history, the document says pupils should know “how the British people shaped this nation and how Britain influenced the world”.

In languages, children will for the first time have to learn a language – ancient or modern – from the age of seven.

In their letter, the academics say of the proposed curriculum: “Much of it demands too much, too young. This will put pressure on teachers to rely on rote learning without understanding. Inappropriate demands will lead to failure and demoralisation.”

They say the plan “betrays a serious distrust of teachers in its amount of detailed instructions”.

“Whatever the intention, the proposed curriculum in England will result in a ‘dumbing down’ of teaching and learning,” they add.

It is also “too narrow”, they argue. “The mountains of detail for English, maths and science leave little space for other learning. Speaking and listening, drama and modern media have almost disappeared from English.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “This distinction made by the signatories between knowledge and skills is a false dichotomy. The new curriculum is based on careful analysis of the world’s most successful school system. We are giving schools more freedom over the curriculum and teaching, not less. We are reforming the exam system to test deeper cognitive skills such as mathematical problem-solving and extended writing, which are neglected now, but these skills... depend on solid foundations.”

The DfE released the results of a Freedom of Information request which listed more than 400 people who had been consulted. It said it received 5,763 responses to its call for evidence to be submitted to the curriculum review.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: After School Club Worker

£40 - £45 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client in the Newp...

Randstad Education Cardiff: English Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education Cardiff is...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin