UPDATE: National Curriculum Review – Primary Draft Curriculum Released

11th June 2012

The Coalition have made it clear they want a rigorous, internationally competitive curriculum based on lots of specified content.  In December last year we created a short guide to the lengthy ‘expert review’ of the National Curriculum. The experts used high-performing countries’ curriculum to suggest several reforms to the National Curriculum. Today we have seen the first official government response and the draft primary curriculum developed from these recommendations.

The Weekend’s Speculation

Over the weekend snippets of information leaked out through the Telegraph . On Saturday there was the announcement that foreign language teaching would become compulsory at 7. Bizarrely the announcement looked exactly like one Labour made in 2007, before they were beset by the pragmatic difficulties of such a move.

Next up was the announcement that we would be going back to basics on literacy (see after the MFL bit). Students will need to memorise spellings of word lists and recite poetry.  This would be novel, if it wasn’t the exact same stuff that was in the National Literacy Strategy 1998.

Finally, the leaks about Numeracy.  These did seem to involve new developments. Students will no longer just timestable up to 10, but up to 12 and they had to learn all the numbers to 10 million. That seemed to be progress although conversations on Twitter suggested many primary schools already teach these concepts.

Today’s Announcements on the National Curriculum

Today Michael Gove has released two important steps in the National Curriculum journey. First, a response to the National Curriculum Expert team explaining what his thoughts are on the Expert Panels recommendations for primary schools only.  A few things stood out:

  • Primary schools must publish their curriculum online (from September but doesn’t say which year). Not just for core subjects, for all subjects.  This seems a good idea if potentially tight on turnaround
  •  No more levelling at primary school, but pupils will still need to be ‘graded’
  •  No-one yet knows how pupils will be graded. Gove will have another think. (UPDATE 13:10: @educationgovuk stated: Yes. Levels gone, won’t be replaced. Apart from KS2 tests, up to schools how they measure progress.)

Secondly, the Draft Programme of Studies are now available for English, Maths & Science.  They are overly verbose and poorly designed but the authors were likely against a very tight timetable and needed to get something. They are also draft documents so lots of time for consultation (and political re-wrangling if the public hate it)

Overall the curriculum documents appear to be a good effort. Writing curriculum is tough: it only ever amounts to reducing amazing and exciting concepts to words on a page. But its success will hang on whether or not it is user-friendly enough to be implemented by Primary School teachers. If it is too lengthy or abstruse, no amount of effort will stop it being put in a cupboard and simply ignored.