New curriculum introduces fractions to five year-olds
Just a month after Michael Gove announced his reforms to GCSEs, David Cameron has outlined changes to the national curriculum in England for five to 14 year-olds. He described it as a ‘revolution in education’ that is vital for the country’s economic prosperity. But academies, which are now the majority of secondary schools, will not have to follow the new, more stretching, curriculum, the BBC reports.
The Education Secretary claimed that the reforms were necessary to keep pace with pupils in the most successful school systems in countries like Hong Kong, Finland and Singapore: “No national curriculum can be modernised without paying close attention to what’s been happening in education internationally.”
The new-look curriculum covers all subjects, focuses on children learning ‘the basics’ at a young age and will be introduced in state schools from September 2014. It puts a stronger emphasis on essay writing, problem solving, mathematical modelling and computer programming.
A more demanding curriculum
- History: the primary curriculum will cover British history from the stone age to Normans, the secondary will feature British history from 1066 to 1901 and world events from 1901
- Maths: five year-olds will learn fractions and by the age of nine pupils will know their 12 times table
- English: more demanding word lists and greater emphasis on Shakespeare
- Science: a shift towards hard facts and scientific knowledge
- Computing: pupils will learn how to write code.
‘Not what children need’
Although the final version of the new curriculum reflects the fierce criticisms of drafts that were published earlier in the year, unions are still warning that the reforms haven’t been properly thought out and that the timetable for implementing them is unrealistic.
ASCL’s Brian Lightman criticised the speed of reform and the level of political involvement: “One year to implement such ambitious proposals effectively alongside the vast number of concurrent reforms is a tall order,” he said, “Unlike previous versions of the national curriculum, which were drafted with a heavy involvement of teachers and school leaders, these proposals have been driven and closely directed by politicians without that professional input.”
Dr Mary Bousted from the ATL said the reforms haven’t been properly thought out: “It will be a memory test. That’s not what children and young people need for the 21st century. Like most of Michael Gove’s political acts they are rushed in, they outrage the profession, he retreats and then we get a mismatched version, which is very problematic.”
Call for ‘anti-predator’ lessons
Shadow Home Office Minister Diana Johnson argued in the House of Commons that the new curriculum should teach children how to protect themselves from ‘predators’ like Jimmy Savile, the Metro report.
She asked Michael Gove why, when what’s needed is ‘a curriculum that’s fit for life, including building life skills around self-esteem and confidence which will protect them from predators like Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall ……. you turn your face against introducing that into the national curriculum?’. Mr Gove responded that he’d recently been talking with young people about the importance of good PHSE teaching in schools: “I think what we can do is learn from the very best schools and ensure they follow the lead of those good schools.”