Richard Garner: Pupils have a right to a varied education

Share
Related Topics

The Cambridge primary review deserves more than a cursory glance after landing in the in-tray of the Schools Secretary, Ed Balls.

Professor Robin Alexander, who headed the inquiry team financed by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation charity, argues the education of many primary school pupils has been "impoverished" because key subjects have been squeezed out of the curriculum (dance, music, PE, history, geography and science).

He makes the point often made by teachers that rigid concentration on the three R's and teaching to the test for 11-year-olds has robbed pupils of their right to a broad and balanced curriculum.

Even the children who gave evidence to the inquiry believe their schooling is missing something – they like the excitement they get during the few times they are allowed to pursue creative ideas in arts and drama lessons.

Professor Alexander acknowledges – as does Ofsted, the education standards watchdog – that the best schools manage to deliver a rich and varied education even within the current constraints.

To a certain extent, that is because they are confident enough about what they are delivering to ditch some of the Government's directives. They also know they do not have to do too much teaching to the test to do well in league tables.

It is those children in the most disadvantaged areas who are most ill-served by what the inquiry team terms this "utilitarian and philistine" approach to education.

It is not an easy conundrum to address because these are the very children who most need a concentration on the basics of literacy and numeracy so they can access other areas of the curriculum.

What does make sense is the inquiry team's call for the national strategies in literacy and numeracy (already taking up half the curriculum time) to be re-integrated into the curriculum. For instance, the omission from the strategy of oracy – developing communication skills – means an extra portion of remaining curriculum time has to be devoted to English.

Today's report has not tackled the "elephant in the room" – the SATs taken by all 11-year-olds which dominate the last two years of primary schooling – other than to say assessment arrangements must be reviewed. Exactly how will be the subject of the inquiry team's final report later this year.

Until that is tackled – and I would advocate keeping testing but removing primary league tables – many schools will find it hard to return to the broader curriculum that I am sure almost all would agree would stimulate more pupils into enjoying their learning.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

£45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Marketing Manager

£36000 - £38000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...

Accounts Assistant, Hammersmith

£25000 per annum: Charter Selection: Exciting sports company with a strong bra...

Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

£250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

This is why I am among the thousands leaving teaching this month

Chris Sloggett
 

The daily catch-up: Neigh-Drama Obama, changing welfare and how to tell if you are a journalist

John Rentoul
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil