Ofsted annual report: Primary emphasis on spelling and grammar risks narrowing the curriculum

Report also warns that secondary heads do not realise that the primary curriculum has changed and still think that pupils' progress is measured in levels

Adi Bloom

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The emphasis on reading, writing, spelling and grammar at primary school risks narrowing the curriculum, today's Ofsted annual report states.

This means that subjects such as science and modern foreign languages can suffer as a result.

The report says: “The underlying importance of literacy means that reading, writing, spelling and grammar remain of the utmost importance in the primary curriculum.

“However, this clear emphasis, which has been embraced successfully by the vast majority of primary schools, can create a risk that the curriculum becomes narrowed.”

Nous n'avons pas de temps

Evidence from inspections shows that science and foreign languages end up suffering, because not enough time is available for in-depth study, the report stated.

Foreign languages were particularly affected. None of the primary schools inspected this year spent more than two hours a week on language study. The majority – more than two thirds – spent less than an hour on foreign languages.

Four in 10 teachers said that time pressure was one of the biggest barriers to effective language teaching in primary schools.

And, in a quarter of primaries, inspectors felt that pupils were not well-prepared for continued study of a foreign language after they left.

Je ne comprends pas

In addition, primary headteachers told inspectors that their secondary counterparts no longer understood the way that pupils were assessed at primary school. In fact, some secondary heads were unaware that primary pupils’ achievement was no longer measured in key stage two levels.

The report stated: “A number of secondary schools had not altered their approach to transition this year, despite the far-reaching nature of the changes to assessment nationally…

“Some secondary schools asked their primary-school colleagues for attainment information displayed in terms of national-curriculum levels.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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