Letter: Primary complaints on the subject

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article about the latest proposed changes to primary teaching (19 January) overlooks the problems raised for primary schools if we continue along present paths.

The national curriculum for primary schools is overloaded. At present the assumption that a secondary school-style subject curriculum is right for primary schools means that primary-class teachers must 'deliver' more than 500 statements of attainment. Add to this the call to place children into sets by ability for subjects and the teacher has to organise 500-odd statements of attainment for three ability groups. This must be managed seven times in the school to include each year group, with each child's records kept, and reporting to parents maintained.

If the national curriculum is to be made manageable in its present 10-subject form, primary schools must escape their Cinderella funding status in relation to secondary schools. A secondary school-style subject curriculum with specialist teachers will cost more.

The problem is made bigger when it is remembered that rural counties are often served by small schools staffed by an average of three to four teachers. Add to this the fact that the present devolved funding to primary schools is insufficient to pay existing staff salary bills, never mind paying for extra subject expertise, and the nature of the present crisis becomes evident.

There are alternatives. These have been developed out of the many educational traditions that inform primary teaching. These alternatives take account of traditional subjects without making an ideological fetish of them, or promising what cannot be done, or forgetting what is really important in education: the development of the person through subjects rather than the subjugation of the young to the impossible, which is what present proposals threaten to do.

The Government has chosen to sweep these traditions aside by caricaturing them as 'progressive'; it should instead remove the distorting ideological beam from its own eye and curb the excesses of this grotesque mismanagement of the education of our children.

Yours faithfully,

ROD MACKENZIE

Senior Lecturer in Education

University of Plymouth

Exmouth

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