School curriculum gets back to facts and figures

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The Independent Online

Children will be taught to concentrate on facts and figures plus key dates and personalities from British history as a result of a review of the national curriculum to be announced today.

Education Secretary Michael Gove will launch his review of the national curriculum this morning with a clarion call for the restoration of "academic rigour" in state schools.

"The new national curriculum will therefore have a greater focus on subject content outlining the essential knowledge and understanding that pupils should be expected to have," says a background document of the new curriculum.

In history, this will mean a move towards naming the individuals that pupils should learn about – such as Churchill, Nelson and Wellington.

Traditionalists made great play of the fact that the 2007 revamp of the curriculum under Labour insisted pupils should study the Second World War but made no mention of Churchill. Government curriculum advisers argued it was impossible to teach about the war without mentioning Churchill and therefore it was not necessary to spell his name out.

In geography, Mr Gove's advisers point out the present curriculum fails to mention a single country other than the UK or any continents, rivers, mountains or cities. Instead, it insists that pupils should learn about global warming and climate change.

The document argues that the curriculum "should not become a vehicle for imposing passing political fads on our children or dominate the school curriculum time in its entirety". Mr Gove will today announce the team he expects to deliver his new traditional curriculum.

They include: Bernice McCabe, co-director of The Prince's Teaching Institute and head of North London Collegiate School; John McIntosh, former headteacher of the London Oratory School, one of the first to opt out of local authority control under the previous Conservative administration; and Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney – the hugely successful inner city school often wheeled out by ministers as an example of good practice.

Mr Gove will say: "Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham will not take responsibility for Labour's profound mistakes with the curriculum and exams that sent us plummeting down the international league tables and widened the gap between rich and poor. Labour is stuck in the past."

The UK has fallen from fourth in the world in science in the highly respected Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) study in 2000 to 15th last year, from seventh in reading to 25th and eighth in maths to 28th.