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Primary Curriculum Review

I was invited to attend a seminar at the QCA about their thinking on the review of the primary curriculum that is being led by Sir Jim Rose.

Here’s a short film about the review:

You may remember that an interim report was issued a few months ago in which it was suggested that there will be a move away from subjects (English, Maths, PSHE etc.) and towards areas of learning.  The interim report indicated these would be:

  • Human, social and environmental understanding
  • Understanding physical health and well-being
  • Understanding the arts and design
  • Understanding English, communication and languages
  • Mathematical understanding
  • Scientific and technological understanding

In the presentation the QCA said that their research for the review had identified 12 characteristics of an effective curriculum:

  1. Underpinned by aims and design principles
  2. Presented to challenge, inspire, engage, and motivate all learners
  3. Promotes coherent personal development
  4. Articulates the essential knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes
  5. Is a common national framework to promote flexibility and personalisation
  6. Is the entire planned learning experience
  7. Promotes a wide repertoire of teaching and learning approaches
  8. Makes clear expectations of progression
  9. Built on a good understanding of child development
  10. Underpinned by assessment
  11. Promotes evaluation
  12. Has clear education outcomes

The presentation described the timeline that they are working to before the new curriculum goes live:

  • 31 March 2009 – Sir Jim Rose’s final advice to the Secretary of State
  • May – July 2009 – Formal consultation, subject to ministerial approval, on the new primary programmes of study
  • September 2009 – Secretary of State signs off on the new programmes of study
  • September 2011 – Schools begin to teach the new primary curriculum

In the discussion those engaged on the advisory group to the review talked about how personal development ‘initiatives’ (SEAL, PSHE, and Healthy Schools were all mentioned) didn’t appear to talk to each other, and how this made it difficult to implement.

It also appeared that the reviewers expect PSHE to fold into the understanding physical health and wellbeing area of learning.

Finally they said they were looking for this review to increase the importance of key outcomes (what they called big ideas) and essential knowledge and to decrease the importance that schools place on content driven lessons.  The example given was of children wanting to learn about what the credit crunch was about, but the teachers not being sure where it would fit in the curriculum; the new curriculum they hope would allow for a greater degree of flexibility.

In my contribution I said that I found the emphasis on health and wellbeing helpful, and was pleased to hear that they saw this as directly contributing to the standards agenda as well.  I said that, within this, it would be helpful if there was less emphasis on physical health (as there are risks that the current emphasis could mean that emotional and mental health are lost).

I made the point that what they described didn’t do enough to talk about how the new curriculum would inspire, engage and work with parents in their role as educators.

Finally, I said that they should think about how external providers would be asked to engage in the implementation of the new curriculum.

Here’s another video the QCA have made where children and young people talk about what they want from learning:

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