Leading article: This is not the radical reform primary education needs

Sir Jim Rose's review gives schools insufficient freedom

Share
Related Topics

When Ed Balls commissioned Sir Jim Rose to look into the state of Britain's primary schools the Education Secretary suggested the result would be "the most fundamental review of the primary curriculum for a decade". Such an outcome was always unlikely given that the former head of Ofsted was not permitted to evaluate the Government's onerous testing regime. And, unsurprisingly, Sir Jim's final report, published yesterday, does not suggest the radical departure for primary education that Mr Balls predicted it would.

That is not to say it has no value. The report contains sensible proposals, such as encouraging primary schools to teach children through a stronger emphasis on the spoken word and artistic expression. Sir Jim also argues that children born in the summer should be entitled to start school the September after their fourth birthday to stop them falling behind older classmates.

Another significant proposal is for computer skills to become a "core skill" in the curriculum, alongside literacy and numeracy. It makes sense for primary schools to acquaint children with computers now such technology has become a central feature of almost every workplace.

Yet there are problems with making it a "core" subject. Teaching children how to download podcasts is not as important as teaching them how to spell or recite multiplication tables. Sir Jim suggests that online resources such as Google Earth could be used in geography lessons and video conferencing technology to connect with pupils in other countries during foreign language lessons. These are reasonable suggestions. But the internet should be an aide to more formal teaching, not the content of lessons.

There are other dangers lurking in the report. Sir Jim suggests an emphasis on thematic learning to replace the traditional division of subjects. What matters is what works. If such teaching methods help the absorption of knowledge, they should be implemented. But we need to remember that a failure to teach students a basic chronology of events in history lessons at secondary school has created problems. Jumping around thematically has proved confusing to students. We must not make the mistake of replacing one educational straitjacket with another. This Government's failure over the past decade has been in overloading the curriculum, imposing too many tests and attempting to manage schools directly from Whitehall. And there is scant evidence that ministers have learned from past mistakes. Only this week they announced that education on "emotions" should be compulsory in primary schools from age five. Sir Jim himself acknowledges that the existing curriculum has grown too "fat". But it is not clear that his recommendations would trim it.

What our primary schools need is a clear and concise list of knowledge and skills that children should possess by the time they move into the next level of education. Once that has been established, the job of policymakers is to step back and give teachers the freedom to impart knowledge in the manner they deem appropriate.

The proposal last week from the Conservative education spokesman, Michael Gove, to extend the secondary academy system to primary schools points the way forward. Giving schools the freedom to run their own budgets and decide how best to teach the curriculum looks rather more like the "fundamental" reform the primary education sector needs than anything the Government has produced.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA Manual Tester - Agile

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Bursar/Business Manager

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Experienced bursar or business...

Secondary School Teachers in Ipswich

Competitive & Flexible: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are l...

Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Qualified and/or experienced te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, the clown who saved Iceland and all about oil

John Rentoul
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories