Children as young as five will be expected to learn and recite poetry by heart in a major overhaul of the national curriculum for schools in England.
Education Secretary Michael Gove will promise a new focus on the traditional virtues of spelling and grammar when he sets out his plans for the teaching of English in primary schools later this week.
At the same time, Mr Gove will put forward proposals to make learning a foreign language compulsory for pupils from the age of seven.
Under his plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek as well as French, German and Spanish from September 2014.
The Education Secretary is said to be determined to make the teaching of English at primary school “far more rigorous” than it is at present.
He also hopes to reverse the decline in pupils taking foreign languages at GCSE by making them mandatory for the first time at primary school level.
Ministers believe that equipping children with foreign language skills is essential if they are to be able to compete in a global economy and support economic growth in future.
Officials acknowledge the proposals are likely to be controversial with some people arguing that they are too demanding while others will feel they are not demanding enough.
Mr Gove is said to be keen to promote a public debate on the plans before redrafting them for a formal consultation later in the year.
They follow a report on the future framework of the national curriculum in England drawn up by an expert panel chaired by Tim Oates, the director of research at the Cambridge Assessment exam board.
On the teaching of English, the aim is to ensure that pupils leave primary school with a strong command of both written and spoken English, with high standards of literacy.
It will call for a systematic approach to the teaching of phonics as a basis for teaching children to become fluent readers and good spellers.
It will also emphasise the importance of grammar in mastering the language, setting out exactly what children should be expected to be taught in each year of their primary schooling as well as lists of words they should be able to spell.
At the same time the study of poetry will also become an important part of the subject at primary school level.
From Year 1, at the age of five, they will be read poems by their teacher as well as starting to learn simple poems by heart and practise recitals
The programme of study for Year 2 will state that pupils should continue “to build up a repertoire of poems learnt by heart and recite some of these, with appropriate intonation to make the meaning clear”.
More generally the curriculum will place a much stronger emphasis on reading for pleasure with children from Year 1 “becoming very familiar with key stories, fairy stories and traditional tales”.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We will be making an announcement on this shortly”.
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