A professor of education claims that a new National Curriculum introduced by the Coalition will narrow pupils’ horizons by failing to give them the “knowledge, skills and experience” needed in all subjects.
Robin Alexander, fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and professor of education at York University, said that literacy and numeracy provided a vital foundation for children’s future lives.
But speaking in central London, he insisted the revised curriculum for under-11s – to be introduced next year – overemphasised their importance at the expense of other core disciplines, suggesting the arts and humanities were being “left to chance”.
Prof Alexander also criticised the Government’s drive to make young children “secondary ready”, insisting that primary education was an important stage in its own right and should not be seen as a mere stepping stone towards secondary school.
It represents his most high-profile comments since the publication of the landmark Cambridge Primary Review in 2009 – a 600-page report edited by Prof Alexander following a six-year inquiry into the state of primary education in England. A new Cambridge Primary Review Trust – based at York University – has now been established to build on the work of the inquiry and help raise standards in primary schools across the country.
Speaking at the launch on Monday, Prof Alexander said the trust would seek to develop teaching in the face of a “neo-Victorian” National Curriculum. “While primary schools must and do insist on the foundational importance of literacy and numeracy, they should also lay those other foundations – in science, the arts, the humanities, in physical, emotional and moral development and in lived experience – that in their way are no less important for young children’s future learning and lives,” he said.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “It is utterly unacceptable that so many children leave primary school without a firm grounding in the basics of English, Maths and Science. That is why our rigorous new primary curriculum focuses on these vital subjects. Of course we expect primaries to teach beyond just English, maths and science. That is why we are giving teachers more freedom than ever before, allowing them to shape lessons to meet the needs of the pupils they know best.”
In order to really understand what the DfE mean by this, simply look at the new curriculum in comparison to the current one. The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a lot less detail. This implies that there is a lot more freedom for teachers than this current curriculum allows. The next I notice is that Information Communication Technology has been replaced with Computing. The last thing I notice, which must be what Prof Alexander is referring to, is that there seems to be a lot more pages in the curriculum dedicated to maths, english and science. I’m not a huge fan of certain parts of the new curriculum, in particular this central focus on the core subjects, as it further risks the marginalisation of certain subjects such as PE and the Arts, which is already an issue now.
What the government’s basically saying is ‘here ya go teachers, you know best. Here’s the basics, do what you like.’ This is effectively calling the profession’s bluff. Bit of a dangerous game if you ask me. I’m quite fascinated to see how the new curriculum works next year. Of course next year is my NQT year so no pressure!