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Muted welcome as government publishes final version of new national curriculum

Changes to controversial aspects of the new national curriculum have received only a muted welcome, it has emerged, as the final version of what children will study in school was published by the Department for Education.

The government has released the results of its official consultation on the curriculum - to be introduced in September 2014 - for all subjects and all ages except key stage four English, maths and science, which will follow a year later.

Ministers had to make big changes in certain areas after the initial version, which was published in February, was given the thumbs down.

Critics complained that the proposed design and technology curriculum would have taken the subject back to the 1950s by introducing sock-darning and flower arranging at the expense of vital 21st century technological skills.

The Design and Technology Association (DATA) condemned it as “unambitious and incoherent”, “completely inappropriate for a technologically advanced nation”, and said it would make England the “laughing stock” of the western world.

Consultation responses reveal that 38 per cent of those who commented welcomed the revised programmes of study in the subject, which were published in July. DATA was more effusive saying it was “very pleased” that the government had listened to its advice.

In history, where critics said the initial primary programmes of study did not match the way children learn, just 17 per cent felt the revised version was well structured and an improvement on earlier drafts.

But some respondents were pleased to see the reduction in the amount of prescribed content, which they felt was better suited to freeing teachers to “exercise their professional judgment in delivering the broad outlines of British history".

All of the major changes made between February and July were confirmed in the final versions of the national curriculum published yesterday.

The new curriculum will also mean that England finally joins the rest of Europe in beginning foreign language teaching in primary school. In the earlier drafts of the curriculum, the government suggested a list of seven languages which could be studied at key stage 2, but this proved an unpopular suggestion.
Primaries may now choose “any modern or ancient foreign language and should focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language”.

The move to allow schools to choose which language they study at key stage two was welcomed by a third of those who responded to the government consultation. Fifteen per cent were concerned that studying one language in primary and then another in secondary may cause difficulties.

In English, there has been a slight change from the version consulted upon in July, with a paragraph about the importance of drama being included in the introduction to the subject.

It says all pupils should take part in drama, write drama and respond thoughtfully to drama and theatre performances. In the latest consultation responses, 14 per cent said that they were concerned about drama only being referred to in the guidance and not recognised as a discipline in its own right. 

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