The Big Question: Do the recommendations in the Rose review go far enough?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.
This week’s question:
  Do the recommendations in the Rose review go far enough?

The Rose review  reveals plans for a radical shake-up in primary schools including a more thematic approach to teaching announced this week.

The proposal suggests six areas of understanding in the primary curriculum to cover the existing subjects of the national curriculum:

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

This will result in the overall slimming down of the curriculum as some areas should be covered by a new cross-curricular, thematic approach to teaching.  Decisions will be made regarding this at a later stage.

It also suggests the following:

  • Summer born children cannot defer start to primary school.  They will need to start school in the September following their fourth birthday,  but may attend part-time
  • Transition from primary to secondary, and early years to key stage one to be made easier including a more play-based approach in key stage one
  • Greater emphasis on ICT to keep youngsters up to speed with technological advances and better use of ICT to develop learning in other subjects
  • Maths and literacy still remain high priority and subject teaching should also continue alongside cross-curricular approaches
  • More focus on life skills, and emotional well-being
  • Primary school children to study one or two modern foreign languages with continuity at secondary school and opportunities to study Mandarin or Urdu

The final report will be produced in March 2009 with expected revisions to be implemented in schools from September 2011.

The Big Question: Are the changes proposed in the Rose review right?

“Yes, these proposed changes now join up with the new key stage 3 and, for the first time ever, I can see a possible whole picture in education. I welcome the emphasis on ICT and the recognition that our young “digital natives” know far more than secondary schools assume they know in ICT. “Understanding” the Arts and Design is a move away from the ‘arty clarty’ vision of primary school “ doing “ arts, into an appreciation of the role of these subjects, not just for fulfilment but as possible career routes. I think the Rose review is honest and far reaching but the sadness remains that, until the powers that be clamp down on testing at the end of KS2, primary teachers will not be able to spread their wings and fly. “
Susan Coles, Arts, creativity, educational consultant, from Washington, Tyne and Wear


“I wonder where spirituality appears in the Rose review?  The word isn’t mentioned at all. Those of us who care about religious education will hope that the big umbrella of ‘human, social and environmental understanding’  will do justice to this important area of knowledge and understanding. My fear is that we are on the path to losing RE as we know it, where strong ‘crunchy’ RE lessons which help children approach real issues in life, will take second place to a quick story about Noah’s Ark in a project about global warming.”
Anne Krisman, RE coordinator of a Foundation school, in Redbridge, North East London


“I think that the change from the traditional subjects to the more thematic approach is definitely what is needed. There are currently so many subjects to try and cram in that you end up only touching on certain subjects just so you have covered it as a subject. It can also lead to basic literacy being neglected as teachers feel they can’t spend as much time as they’d like on reading and writing as we have to teach all of the other subjects as well.

“When things are linked together in themes it can give children more of a context to learn in. They can see the links between subjects and understand why they are learning about them as they fit into real life scenarios. A potential problem would be schools moving to this approach but still thinking in terms of the existing 14 subjects. For example, they may timetable two sessions of human, social and environmental understanding and teach a geography lesson in one session and a history lesson in the other, rather than linking the two into a theme. This would hopefully just be a transitional effect though and as schools begin to fully understand the approach it would be less like this and more how Rose intends it to be.

“I agree that all children should start in the September after their 4th birthday. Many authorities already take this approach and it works successfully. Having previously taught in Year 1 in a school where summer born children started in the January, I saw some younger children constantly playing catch up. They had been at school for a whole term less than their peers and in areas such as phonics they hadn’t covered the same amount of sounds in Reception.

“A more play-based approach in KS1 is a great suggestion as it can be too formal for the children. It is easy to forget that children in KS1 are aged between 5 and 7. They need play. However, KS1 assessment would also need to be reviewed as with the pressure of Year 2 assessment many teachers may find it difficult to move to a play based approach.”
Sarah Gallacher, Y1/Y2 primary school teacher, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire


“I look back with pleasure and pride on the way schools managed the primary curriculum during the 1980s when teachers wre seen as facilitators, managing an environment in which children could choose their own pathways through the learning and practical experiences on offer.  Children could spend time producing work to very high standards of presentation, and I  rejoice in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this review will herald a return to a time when teachers were trusted to make their own informed and educated judgments about what different groups of students should encounter.”
Michael Thorn,, Deputy Head of a primary school, in Hailsham


“It seems to me that the circle has turned yet again! When I was a young Junior School teacher everything had to be tied into ‘topic work’;  History & Geography were not taught as stand alone subjects.  So it’s with a feeling of ‘here we go again’ that I read the six themes proposed.  Every week there is a new proposal of ‘something that should be taught in schools’ (usually thought up by someone who has never taught) - is this a fudging way of squeezing out History, Geography and R.E?”
Stephanie O’Farrell, primary school teacher, in Stapleford, Cambridgeshire