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New curriculum, same old problems?

The benefits of changing the primary curriculum will be lost unless the education system behind it is also altered, Professor Robin Alexander said this week.

A new primary curriculum, organised into six areas of learning with literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development at its core, has been proposed by Sir Jim Rose and is currently out to consultation. It is due to be introduced in 2011.

But in a debate at the Westminster Education Forum this week, Professor Alexander, director of the Cambridge Primary Review, which has considered all aspects of primary education, criticised the narrow remit Sir Jim was given.

He said: "The most striking (conclusion) from our inquiry was the move towards centralisation and micro-prescription.

"If he (Rose) is talking about a new model of curriculum operated in the same way as the present one, in the same political culture and with all the organisations doing the same jobs, I think the same complaints and problems will persist."

He told delegates that the review, which will continue to emphasise literacy and numeracy as core skills, albeit alongside ICT and personal development, risked maintaining the two-tier curriculum that had dogged primary education since Victorian times. He dismissed the "muddled and reductive discourse" that set knowledge against skills.

Professor Alexander said knowledge was the absolute bedrock of all education at any stage, and skills should be educational essentials, but were in danger of becoming "fashion accessories" because of the profligate use of the word "skills".

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