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'Every moment of every day'

Headteachers hail vision of learning that looks beyond the national curriculum. Helen Ward reports

Time spent doing school plays, queuing for class, or even the lunchtime break is when primary schools can teach children the skills to become confident, responsible adults, headteachers will hear today.

Mick Waters, from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, wants 1,000 primary schools to join in a project, which recognises their curriculum is about more than subjects.

He wants them to adopt the Big Curriculum Picture, a blueprint being drawn up by the QCA to enable all young people to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

"Every moment of every day is a learning experience," Mr Waters told The TES. "If it is good, children make progress. If it is bad, children go backwards.

"This is not about saying what's wrong but about making the curriculum irresistible to youngsters. It is not a pressure born of failure, but of the natural instinct of teachers to do the best by their young people."

Today around 200 heads and education advisers from across the South-west are due to meet Mr Waters, director of curriculum at the QCA, at a conference in Yeovil to find out more.

"The curriculum is at the heart of the school," he said. "That is what you have a school for. But the national curriculum subjects are only part of the curriculum.

"The real curriculum is the entire planned learning experience. It includes subjects but also events, such as school plays, and the routines of the school day, such as lunchtime, and what children do during time in and out of school - things like cubs or brownies."

Charlie Werner, of the Devon Association of Primary Heads organised the conference after seeing Mr Waters speak at a National Primary Heads Association meeting.

"He has really enthused us," Mr Werner said. "One important thing he has done is to say 'what do you think?' It is refreshing.

"For so many years we have been told what we ought to be teaching and in many ways how we ought to be teaching.

"Heads are very excited about this change. The curriculum is the most important thing in school but for many years there have been all sorts of other things: tests, tables. Now we are starting to talk about the curriculum - which is why we came into teaching."

In May 2003, the Primary National Strategy was launched with the document Excellence and Enjoyment, which urged schools to be more creative.

This sparked a surge of interest in redesigning curriculums. A survey for the National Union of Teachers this summer found one in three schools that changed their curriculum had introduced themed work.

And Ofsted, once cited as the reason schools clung to the notionally optional QCA schemes of work, and literacy and numeracy hours, criticised schools last term for being too cautious and "not sufficiently inventive in developing links between subjects".

But Mr Waters wants schools to go beyond simply introducing topic work, or combining subjects. "This is about looking at how the curriculum can meet the needs of children now and in the future. It is about giving teachers an insight into what is possible."

Mr Waters has a team of heads and advisers helping him work on the project.

There is also a similar move to help secondary and special schools redesign their curriculum.

Primary Forum 24

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