The Government introduces tougher curriculum to boost standards

 

Ministers have unveiled proposals for a back-to-basics curriculum focusing on times-tables, spelling, reading and arithmetic but a union leader warned it would lead to an unexciting "uniform education" for children.

New draft curricula for English, maths and science in primary schools were published by the Government today, which it says will help to boost standards.

Under the plans, pupils will be expected to memorise their times tables up to 12 by age nine, multiply and divide fractions by age 11 and begin to learn and recite poetry at five years old.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) raised concerns that politicians had presented a "heavily prescribed curriculum" that will leave little chance for teachers to excite children and adapt lessons to suit their pupils.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "The detailed programmes of study will lead to a uniform education, with next to no opportunity for teachers to excite children and adapt learning to suit their pupils in their local area, developing the skills they need for life, future education and work. ATL believes that the curriculum must help all children learn and develop."

Others said the new proposals contained some good suggestions, but warned that publishing details for the new primary curriculum is only half the picture.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "We welcome the emphasis on English and maths at primary as these are the building blocks of secondary education. The proposals appear to be a development of the current curriculum rather than a radical change, but it is clear that it will be more rigorous.

"There are still many unanswered questions about how it will look in the classroom and our full response to the primary proposals will depend what the secondary proposals look like."

Mr Lightman said it was "unfortunate" that the primary programmes had been published before a final decision had been made about the secondary curriculum.

"There needs to be continuity between what happens at primary and secondary and, without joined up thinking, many of the issues with transition to secondary school will remain," he said.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "In our minds, the curriculum review is perhaps the most significant reform yet, and one with great potential to affect standards."

He added: "There is no doubt these programmes are more demanding, particularly in maths and grammar.

"It is appropriate to express high expectations in a statement of curriculum aims, but schools will need time and support to develop their teaching to reach those aims.

"Let's ensure that these programmes become a source of inspiration rather than a cause of desperation for schools."

The Department for Education (DfE) said that the new plans, which are being published for informal consultation before a formal process later this year, are designed to "restore rigour in what primary school children are taught in maths and science."

In maths, pupils will be expected to know all their times tables up to 12 times 12 by age nine, whereas under the current system they should know up to 10 times 10 by the end of primary school.

By the age of seven, children will be expected to have memorised all so-called "number bonds" - simple addition and subtraction sums such as 9+9=18 or 15-6=9 - up to 20.

And by the time they finish primary school at age 11, children will be expected to be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide fractions and decimals.

Many of these topics are not covered by the current curriculum, which means that pupils struggle when they get to secondary school and do not have the right grounding for more difficult concepts such as algebra, the DfE said.

The new science curriculum calls for pupils to be taught topics such as static electricity, magnetism and the basic parts of a simple electrical circuit.

The solar system and galaxies, which are not in the current curriculum for primary schools, are also included, as well as life cycles, including reproduction, the human circulatory system and evolution.

Pupils will also be expected to learn about the lives of key scientific figures such as Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, the Wright Brothers and David Attenborough.

The new English curriculum contains for the first time a compulsory spelling list for children in Years 5 and 6, including words such as Europe, receipt, syrup, villain and wizard.

Five-year-olds will be expected to start to learn and recite poetry by heart, with six and seven-year-olds "building up a repertoire of poems learnt by heart"

There is also a stronger emphasis on reading for pleasure with children from Year 1 "becoming very familiar with key stories, fairy stories and traditional tales".

A spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Gove said that children had been "let down on the basics" by the current curriculum, with the UK falling behind other nations.

"The new curriculum will raise standards for all and equip children better for secondary school."

Ministers have also announced proposals to make foreign languages compulsory from the age of seven, with schools potentially offering lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek as well as Spanish, German and French.

The proposals also say that ministers plan to scrap the national curriculum levels system.

These levels are used to grade children; for example, level 4 is the standard expected of a pupil by the end of primary school.

There is no decision on what form of grading there may be in the future, the DfE said.

In a letter to Tim Oates, chair of the expert panel on the curriculum, Mr Gove said some form of grading of pupils' achievement in English, maths and science will be required.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "Much of what is in the proposals can already be seen in schools. Children learn poems, do mental arithmetic and learn grammar. By making this prescriptive along with a whole raft of other requirements, Michael Gove's cries for 'freedom' and 'choice' in the way teachers teach are ringing increasingly hollow."

She added: "Whilst the abandonment of awarding of 'levels' may be positive, we await the detail of what 'grading' will look like. The creation of league tables on the basis of 'grades' poses as many problems of teaching to the test as those based on 'levels'."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick