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A new strategy deserves better consideration

No one I have spoken to is filled with excitement at the thought that the Government is about to set up a new primary strategy. This is partly because the details are being kept very quiet, and little can be said until a director is appointed - probably some time this month.

But it is also because their thinking on primary education seems so narrowly focused. Although ministers and civil servants speak of creativity and the broader curriculum, they remain attached to a view of the 3Rs which is already feeling outdated.

Shortly after taking up his new job as head of the standards and effectiveness unit at the Department for Education and Skills, Professor David Hopkins set out his vision for improvement (TES, September 27) which largely heralded more of the same - more guidance to fill the gaps, rather than a broader vision of how a curriculum rich with arts and fun would be the real spur to better learning. The new director will answer to him.

The worry is that the primary strategy will do little more than bring literacy and numeracy together, probably with some inside-the-box thinking skills woven in.

There is likely to be more work on literacy across the curriculum, and maybe on speaking and listening. Thinking needs to be much more fundamental. As David Winkley suggests below, it needs to look to the future, to the way society is developing, to the whole child, family, community and the world.

In a future where children will probably be "writing" by speaking into a machine, oracy will become a crucial skill and handwriting may be neither here nor there. Meanwhile, one of the most telling findings in the Office for Standards in Education's report on the national literacy strategy, published last week, was that teachers did not make maximum use of resources on government websites because their computer skills were too bad.

It is time for an open debate on just what sort of primary strategy we want, before the Government's version is developed and set in stone.

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