Primary Curriculum Review published

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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 today 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.

Sir Jim’s recommendations also include:

  • 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.

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.