Put the fun into fundamentals

Andy Bell, 34, is Year 6 teacher at The Meadows Primary in Lincoln. In 2007, he was named primary teacher of the year at the national Teaching Awards.

What works in the curriculum at the moment?

Schools are feeling more able to take ownership of the curriculum. They're introducing themes and topics they feel will really inspire the children. Teachers are putting a bit more fun into the curriculum again, finding ways to make it more enjoyable for the children.

What should change?

I don't know if it's the curriculum that should change so much as what teachers do with it. It would be good to have more freedom to inspire pupils, and not just teach things because we have to.

For a while, teachers felt straitjacketed, as though they had to do things certain ways, and teach things that were irrelevant to their children. One school was based by the seaside, but none of the curriculum was based on teaching about the sea because the school felt it had to do what was prescribed. The Government should emphasise that there are fundamentals that have to be taught, but you can choose contexts pupils are excited about.

What do your pupils think should change?

The one thing that really spoils Year 6 is Sats. They feel that half the year is based on revision, and they don't want to be pressurised at such an early age. When they talk about their memories of primary school at the end of the year, tests are one of the negatives. They just get in the way, really.

Do you agree with them?

I think there's too much testing. Pupils come into Year 6 really excited and enthusiastic, and then you have to sit them down and do maths.

There's a difference between testing and assessing. If teachers could show they were assessing children, perhaps it would take away the need for so much testing.

Do you think there's a need for constant curriculum change?

Sometimes there's too much change. Lots of new things come in, then revised versions of everything. So you've got to take it with a pinch of salt, and not jump on every bandwagon.

What are your fears about the curriculum?

You've got to remember what's really important. We sometimes forget that it's all about the children. It's all about them as people.

I think we could do with a bit more balance, looking at how we motivate each other, how we encourage each other, how you develop as a person. I fear sometimes we lose sight of that, and think it's all about targets. It isn't.

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