Let joy be reinstated

Yet more evidence of the narrowing of the primary curriculum - and of the joy that is being driven out of teaching and learning in some infant and junior classes - emerged this week (page 3).

As The TES reported last week, the Government has set up a committee to look again at what children should be taught at key stages 1 and 2. This follows similar warnings about curricular constraints from the Office for Standards in Education, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Government's own evaluations of its literacy and numeracy strategy.

The latest research by Professors Maurice Galton and John MacBeath finds that, despite two previous reviews of the primary curriculum, schools can no longer provide a broad and balanced diet within the time available while also meeting the other demands on teachers. Art, drama, music, history, geography, ICT and even science are being squeezed.

Teachers are losing job satisfaction because they feel compelled to spend time doing things which add little to children's real education. They resent the increased workload, amounting to almost 10 hours a week, because the personal cost involved is not matched by benefits for their pupils.

A committee of 30 civil servants and quangocrats is unlikely to restore the fun to teaching and motivation to learning driven out by their previous efforts. A committee with a few practising teachers led by Tim Brighouse might command more confidence.

But schools should take the initiative themselves to restore a better balance to the primary classroom. Children need to see that learning can be creative and enjoyable. They need more opportunities to apply their improved basic skills in broadening cross-curricular projects and presentations instead of just practising for tests.

A broad and balanced curriculum which promotes "the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils and of society" has a strong appeal to parents. It is also a legal requirement. Meeting government targets is not.

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