Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum

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Education expert Sir Jim Rose has published the findings of the most fundamental review of the primary curriculum in a decade, and a series of recommendations to modernise it for 21st century pupils.

Ed Balls had asked Sir Jim to propose a curriculum which would inspire life-long learning while reducing prescription and giving teachers greater flexibility.

He was asked to look particularly at how primary schools could develop children’s personal skills to help them achieve academically as well as how to smooth pupils’ path between early years and primary, and into secondary school.

For the first time ever the proposed curriculum will set out what children should learn in three phases – taking them seamlessly from the Early Years Foundation Stage to Key Stage 1, and from primary to secondary education. The three phases show explicitly how the curriculum broadens and deepens to reflect children’s different but developing abilities between the ages of five and 11.

Sir Jim recommends that summer-born children should start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday rather than wait until January - however this would be subject to discussions with parents, taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class. In some cases children might start school part-time.

To give parents choice and flexibility, the Government is committing, from 2011, to funding both the cost of all children starting school in the September after their fourth birthday, and the full-time costs (up to 25hrs per week) of those children whose parents would prefer them to be in private or voluntary early years provision.

Speaking as Sir Jim Rose’s final review was published, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: “Parents who currently can’t start their four-year-olds until January or April because of a local decision should have the option to start them in September.”

He added: “For those parents who, because of their particular circumstances don’t feel that's right, we intend to have the option available of full- or part-time nursery places for one or two terms. This is maximum choice for parents depending on what's best for their child.”

Sir Jim, a former Ofsted chief, first outlined his recommendations in his interim report in December.

Sir Jim’s final report calls for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be made a core skill of the new curriculum, alongside literacy and numeracy.

He insisted this would not mean other subjects such as science - traditionally seen as a core subject - would become less important.

He said: “We are looking to literacy, numeracy and ICT as key skills running through the whole curriculum.

“In no way does that suggest we are stepping back from recognising the importance of science and technology.”

Sir Jim called for ICT to be used in all subjects, and for teachers to be given extra training to help them stay one step ahead of 'computer savvy' pupils.

It means that pupils could use Google Earth in geography lessons, or teachers could use video conferencing to connect with pupils in other countries during foreign language lessons.

Details of the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum:

The new curriculum has been reorganised into six areas of learning:

  • understanding English, communication and languages;
  • mathematical understanding;
  • understanding the arts;
  • historical, geographical and social understanding;
  • understanding physical development, health and wellbeing; and
  • scientific and technological understanding.

Main Recommendations:

  • literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development should form the new core of the primary curriculum;
  • that the primary curriculum be organised into six new areas of learning, so children can benefit from high quality subject teaching and cross curricular studies;
  • schools should teach one or two foreign languages, being free to choose which, but focusing on those taught at Key Stage 3;
  • that teachers receive additional support to help them teach ICT;
  • a new focus on spoken communication, making particular use of the performing and visual arts, especially role play and drama;
  • that year six and seven pupils undertake extended study projects to help smooth their transition into secondary school;
  • that parents be given a guide to the curriculum, so they can better understand what their children are learning at school;
  • teachers to have new advice about how to stimulate play based learning, which would be passed on to parents
  • the introduction of an extra training day for primary schools in 2010 so they can understand and start planning for the new primary curriculum;
  • smoothing the transition from early years to primary by extending and building upon active, play-based learning, particularly for ‘summer-born’ children and those still working towards the early learning goals; and
  • that the two Early Learning goals from the Early Years Foundation Stage he was asked to review be retained. However, he has suggested that the DCSF should offer additional guidance for early years teachers on how to support young children’s emerging writing skills, including examples of how these two goals are being achieved by many children.

Details of the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum:

Recommendation 1
A National Curriculum should be retained as a statutory entitlement for all children.

Recommendation 2
Consideration should be given to making the historically reactive response to curriculum review a proactive strategy whereby the EYFS and the statutory curriculum for primary and secondary schools are reviewed at agreed intervals as a whole, rather than as separate phases reviewed out of sequence. This would impose a discipline on the process of review such that schools could be assured of a period of stability in which to achieve agreed curricular goals.

Recommendation 3
The aims for a revised primary curriculum derived from the 2002 Education Act, the Children’s Plan and Every Child Matters should be underpinned by a unified statement of values that is ft for all stages of statutory education. The aims and values established as part of the recent secondary curriculum review should be extended to the primary curriculum.

Recommendation 4
In preparing for a revised curriculum in 2011, the QCA should provide examples of how successful schools manage time in order to achieve a broad and balanced curriculum.

Recommendation 5
The content of the primary curriculum should be organised as it is now under knowledge, skills and understanding but structured as six areas of learning to enable children to benefit fully from high-quality subject teaching and equally challenging cross-curricular studies, and to improve the continuity of learning from the EYFS to Key Stage 3.

Recommendation 6
(i)  To help primary schools sustain curricular continuity and secure pupils’ progress from reception class to Year 7, the QCA should work closely with the National Strategies to assist schools to plan the new curriculum.
(ii)  Web-based guidance should be made available drawing upon the experience of that for the secondary curriculum. This should include refreshing the primary literacy and numeracy frameworks.
(iii) In line with arrangements for implementing the new secondary curriculum, the DCSF should provide primary schools with one extra training day in 2010 to enable the workforce in each school to understand the new primary curriculum and start planning how it will work in their school.

Recommendation 7
The DCSF should commission a plain-language guide to the curriculum for parents to help them understand how it will change to match children’s developing abilities and how they can best support their children’s learning at school.

Recommendation 8
(i)  Literacy, numeracy and ICT should form the new core of the primary curriculum.
(ii)  Schools should continue to prioritise literacy, numeracy and ICT as the foundational knowledge, skills and understanding of the primary curriculum, the content of which should be clearly defined, taught discretely, and used and applied extensively in each area of learning.
(iii) The DCSF expert group on assessment should give consideration to how the new core of literacy, numeracy and ICT should be assessed and these aspects of children’s performance reported to parents.

Recommendation 9
Primary schools should make sure that children’s spoken communication is developed intensively within all subjects and for learning across the curriculum. In so doing, schools should capitalise on the powerful contributions of the performing and visual arts, especially role play and drama.

Recommendation 10
(i)  Primary schools should continue to build on the commendable progress many have made in teaching decoding and encoding skills for reading and spelling through high-quality, systematic phonic work as advocated by the 2006 reading review as the prime approach for teaching beginner readers.
(ii)  Similar priorities and principles should apply to numeracy in keeping with the recommendations of the Williams Review.

Recommendation 11
(i)  The two early learning goals for writing should be retained as valid, inspirational goals for the end of  the EYFS.
(ii)  The DCSF should consider producing additional guidance for practitioners on supporting children’s early writing and should offer practical examples of how this can work.

Recommendation 12
The DCSF, working with the QCA and Becta, should consider what additional support teachers will need to meet the raised expectations of children’s ICT capabilities and use of technology to enrich learning across the curriculum and set in train adequate support.

Recommendation 13
(i)  The QCA, in consultation with representative groups, should exemplify and promote the range of learning envisioned in the new framework for personal development with the firm intention of helping schools to plan for balanced coverage and avoid piecemeal treatment of this central aspect of the curriculum.
(ii)  Personal development together with literacy, numeracy and ICT constitute the essentials for learning and life. The DCSF should work with the QCA to find appropriate and innovative ways of assessing pupils’ progress in this area.

Recommendation 14
(i)  The preferred pattern of entry to reception classes should be the September immediately following a child’s fourth birthday. However, this should be subject to well-informed discussion with parents, taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class. Arrangements should be such as to make entry to reception class an exciting and enjoyable experience for all children, with opportunities for flexible arrangements such as a period of part-time attendance if judged appropriate.
 (ii) The DCSF should provide information to parents and local authorities about the optimum conditions, flexibilities and benefits to children of entering reception class in the September immediately after their fourth birthday.

Recommendation 15
The QCA should make sure that guidance on the revised primary curriculum includes clear advice on how best to support those children who need to continue to work towards the early learning goals and build on the learning that has taken place in the EYFS.

Recommendation 16
What constitutes high-quality, play-based learning and how this benefits young children, especially those entering the early primary stage, should be made explicit in QCA guidance. Because parents, too, need to understand the importance of play, this guidance should be routed through schools to parents.

Recommendation 17
Key Stage 1 teachers should be involved in the moderation of Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) assessments within schools, to increase their understanding of the EYFSP and their confidence in the judgements of reception class teachers.

Recommendation 18
Major central initiatives, such as Assessment for Learning and Assessing Pupils’ Progress, have huge potential for strengthening the transition of children from primary to secondary schools. The DCSF should develop these initiatives to keep pace with the fast-growing appetite in primary schools to take them on board.

Recommendation 19
With their local authorities, primary and secondary schools should agree a joint policy for bridging children’s transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3. Five interdependent transition bridges are suggested for this purpose: administrative; social and personal; curriculum; pedagogy; and autonomy and managing learning. This should involve extended studies across Year 6 and Year 7, and draw upon the support of personal tutors.

Recommendation 20
When the National Strategies next review their materials they should look to further strengthen curricular continuity between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3.

Recommendation 21
The knowledge, skills and understanding that children need to acquire in languages should be situated within the area of learning entitled ‘Understanding English, communication and languages’. This will enable teachers and pupils to exploit the links between English and the chosen language(s).

Recommendation 22
Schools should focus on teaching only one or two languages. This should not preclude providing pupils with experiences in other languages as opportunities arise in cross-curricular studies, as long as sustained learning is secured in one or two languages to ensure that children are able to achieve progression over four years in line with the expectations of the Key Stage 2 framework for languages.

Recommendation 23
Primary schools should be free to choose the language(s) that they wish to teach; however, as far as possible the languages offered should be those which children will be taught in Key Stage 3.

Recommendation 24
The commendable work that is taking place to support the delivery of language teaching through workforce development programmes should continue at current levels of funding.

Recommendation 25
A survey by Ofsted of how well primary schools are managing the introduction of languages as a compulsory subject should take place no later than 2014.