Education: Literacy and numeracy need morethan the 3Rs: readers' letters

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Why is it that we cannot recognise a national curriculum success story when we see one? Parents, teachers and children in primary schools will tell you of the enormous benefits of a diverse curriculum - and of how rich and enjoyable the learning of history in particular has become. Ofsted inspection evidence proves this, as do shops groaning with popular history books aimed at young children. And yet all of these achievements - based upon teachers' and publishers' hard work as well as the statutory place of history - are thrown into disarray by the Secretary of State's decision to bypass agreed channels for consulting on the future of the curriculum. Whatever the considerable merits of the content of their programmes, the imposition of the literacy and numeracy hours on to primary schools is a modernist and standardised central solution to what is actually a host of complex and valuable educational problems. Their introduction also belittles history - a subject which is working well, fascinates children and advances their literacy.

Dr Grant Bage, Cambridge University School of Education, on behalf of the

Historical Association Primary Committee

The announcement by Mr Blunkett that there is to be increased emphasis on the teaching of the 3 Rs in primary schools would appear to be the latest in a series of measures aimed at further reducing the state education system to a production line devoid of any elements likely to stimulate the curiosity, creativity and individuality of its products.

Mark Traynor, Foston, Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Great strides have been made in recent years in primary education by using resources such as the historic environment and museums to stimulate lifelong interests in children while, at the same time, providing the essential broad and balanced curriculum as the framework through which high standards in literacy and numeracy can be delivered. Let us hope that the guidance soon to be issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum authority will promote and indeed encourage such work.

Dr Peter G. Stone,

chair, education committee, Council for British Archaeology.

Design and technology at primary level is a perfect vehicle for developing language and application of number skills in stimulating and realistic contexts. It also enables children to acquire other essential skills. Looking to the next century, society will be influenced more than ever by the importance of technology and we will need to create a highly skilled society where employees will be both literate and numerate, but also creative problem-solvers, capable of working in teams in a flexible and inventive fashion. Design and technology is the one subject that enables children to develop all of these skills and should remain one of the mandatory subjects for all children.

Paul Thompson, Director, Design Museum.

Children have to want to communicate. Many primary teachers would acknowledge that the investigation of their local environment, and some contrasting environments elsewhere, not only accommodates the child's basic curiosity, but generates this all-important motivation. Such work, far from being an optional curricular frill, creates a genuine need to talk, read, write, calculate, draw.

In contrast, jumping through linguistic hoops for an hour a day is likely to be far less motivating.

Michael J. Storm,

chairman, Geographical Association International Committee.

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