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Schools have become too "regimented" and exclude topics - including Humpty Dumpty - says union president

Schools have become too "regimented", with teachers given less time to spend on individual topics such as Humpty Dumpty, the new president of one of the country's leading classroom unions said today.

In her inaugural speech, Alison Sherratt, who formally took up her role as president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said strict timetables and school days broken up into regimented tasks prevented students from properly exploring subjects. 

Too much schooling  was about "ticking boxes and tests" rather than giving children an “excitement in learning”, she added.

“We’ve lost the room and freedom to give children an excitement about learning,” Ms Sherratt said. “It’s no longer possible to spend six weeks on a topic, which would include maths, science, vocabulary, writing, reading, poetry, drawing and cooking, as I did with the theme of Humpty Dumpty, a topic my pupils remember nearly 40 years later.”

The comments are likely to attract stinging criticism from education secretary Michael Gove’s camp, which has been behind a raft of new measures to bring more “rigour” into the classroom such as introducing a new national curriculum and tougher national tests.

However, the ATL’s new president also offered a more withering assessment on Mr Gove’s programme of reforms and lamenting the demise of topic-based teaching.   

“Topic-based teaching made it easier for children to see the links between subjects and didn’t break their continuity of thought,” Ms Sherratt said. “I fear the new primary curriculum will do little to encourage such creativity or free thinking.

And she added: “We test children too much, put too much pressure on them to pass arbitrary levels and put far too much pressure on teachers to get massive scores for all their pupils… It really angers me that today’s teachers don’t seem to be respected by the government.”

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