Tests threaten reform of curriculum, teachers fear

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The Independent Online

Plans for a radical shake-up of the primary school curriculum will flounder unless ministers order a review of the national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds, teachers' leaders warn.

Sir Jim Rose, the former director of schools for Ofsted, yesterday put forward proposals for the most sweeping review of the primary school timetable for 20 years. But teachers argued that the radical changes will be impossible without an overhaul of the testing regime – which, they say, takes up too much of their time in the latter years of primary schooling, because of anxieties about league tables and subsequent "teaching to the test".

Overall, the report recognised "concerns about over-prescription and over-crowded content" – prompting the call for a more theme-based approach to the curriculum rather than rigidly timetabled subjects.

Sir Jim recommended six themes: understanding English, communication and languages; mathematical understanding; scientific and technological understanding; human, social and environmental understanding; understanding physical health and well-being; and understanding the arts and design. But the report added: "Neither discrete subject teaching nor cross-curricular studies must disappear from primary schools."

Sir Jim estimated about 50 per cent of primary schools already adopted a themed base to the curriculum.

Primary education: Key proposals

*Summer-born children should start school in the September term after their fourth birthday.

*Subjects like history and geography to be taught under a general theme.

*Children should be taught one or two modern foreign languages.

*Literacy, numeracy and technology are the three key priority areas.

*Schools should concentrate on children's speaking and listening skills.

*Consideration should be given to topics such as drug abuse, obesity, sex and relationship education.