Primary schools 'have lost their sense of fun and play'

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The Independent Online

Ministers have presided over the death of fun and play in the primary school curriculum, according to the results of an inquiry published today.

The inquiry, commissioned by the National Association of Head Teachers, recommends scrapping end-of-term national curriculum tests and primary school league tables.

It argues that they have damaged children's education by putting them off learning through too much repetitive teaching for tests.

Its conclusions will put the country's largest headteachers' organisation on a collision course with the Government since Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said that league tables are here to stay, when he launched the the Government's 10-year children's plan on Tuesday.

The inquiry collected evidence from a range of organisations, academics and writers including the literacy expert Sue Palmer, the author of Toxic Childhood, which argues that today's children have been robbed of their childhood by the testing, targets and tables regime in schools.

In the inquiry report, she argues: "Fun and play are what motivate young children to learn and to want to go on learning."

She added: "The more teachers concentrate on teaching to the tests, the less time they have to spend on the range of activities young children need to develop them as balanced individuals.

"Sport and PE provide small bodies with the chance to ... develop physical co-ordination and control and learn valuable lessons about working as a team. Art, music and movement help children express themselves in a variety of ways and develop emotional resilience."

She concluded: "Parents looking for a more rounded education for their children, if they can afford it, may choose to go private."

The inquiry stresses that the NAHT is not against assessing pupils but argues the current national curriculum tests coupled with the primary school league tables are "deeply damaging to the quality of education and therefore to the standards of achievement in our schools".

The Government's children's plan did, however, concede that more needed to be done to provide children with areas in which to play and urged an end to the "no ball games" culture invading green space and many council estates.