Evolution and British history become compulsory

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Primary school children in England will have to learn about evolution and British history - becoming compulsory elements of the new primary school curriculum.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said the new legislation will make evolution a compulsory part of science education and that British history will be a key, and permanent, feature of the historical, geographical and social understanding area of learning.

Mr Coaker said: "What and how our children learn lies at the heart of our policies to raise standards.

"We've seen that an inspiring and rigorous curriculum can transform failing schools, which is why these plans are based on the very best practice from this country's top-class teachers."

Evolution is already taught in secondary schools and many primary schools, but under the curriculum changes, it will become compulsory for primary pupils, with the recommendation that they are taught the subject in their later years at school."

The new curriculum was drawn up after a review by Sir Jim Rose, which called for distinct subjects to be replaced by six new areas of learning from September 2011: the right to learn a foreign language for 7 year olds, a new focus on speaking and listening, increased expectations of ICT skills, and giving all parents the option to send their child to school in the September after they are 4.

The public consultation findings which resulted in the legislation showed 70 per cent of teachers, parents, pupils and education experts thought the new curriculum will provide a sound basis for primary education, 71 per cent agreed that they will help children make useful links between related subjects and 83 per cent agreed that the proposals to integrate ICT through the curriculum will help children use technology to enhance their learning.

70 per cent also agreed that the proposed curriculum will give schools more flexibility to adapt to the needs of their children and 69 per cent agreed that the proposed curriculum is less prescriptive than the existing curriculum and provides schools with greater flexibility to adapt the curriculum to pupil's needs.

Computer technology will also move centre stage in the new primary school curriculum.

Former school inspections director, Sir Jim Rose, said: "The touchstone of an excellent curriculum is that it instils in children a love of learning for its own sake. The best schools demonstrate that these priorities - literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development - are crucial for giving children their entitlement to a broad and balanced education."

Vernon Coaker added: “Laying firm foundations in our primary schools was vital, but it resulted in a top-down approach with too much prescription from the centre and a curriculum cluttered with too many must-dos. If we truly expect schools to reach the next level and become not just good, but great, the power has to rest with Heads to drive their own improvement.

“This is why we’re moving to a new curriculum, with 6 areas of learning rather than stand alone subjects. Teachers will have more freedom to use their professional judgement and creativity to make links between subjects that make sense to their pupils: from linking history to the arts, or science to PE.

“But what we are absolutely clear on is that a more flexible, more locally determined curriculum will still focus on the basics. We’re making literacy, numeracy and ICT the backbone of every lesson and are underpinning everything schools do with developing pupils’ personal, emotional and social skills. And along with the guarantee of 1 to 1 tuition for those falling behind in English and maths, all pupils should leave primary school with the skills they need."