Is circle time a time-waster?

29th January 2010 at 00:00
Primary curriculum review chief tells MPs it's a potential time-waster while supporters claim the practice fosters good relationships

Original paper headline: What did Sir Jim say at circle time? You're a bit pointless

It is a staple of primary classrooms up and down the country: young children sitting facing each other taking it in turns to speak.

Supporters say that "circle time" promotes positive relationships and develops children's self-confidence.

But its days could be numbered after the man in charge of the primary curriculum review singled out the practice as a potential waste of time.

Sir Jim Rose told MPs considering the new Children, Schools and Families Bill that circle time had often left him unimpressed.

"If you are going to give an hour a week to circle time out of a 21-hour week, it has to be well-structured and well set up, in the hands of an expert, to get full value for money out of that precious hour," he said.

"I must tell you that I have not seen a great deal of impressive work in that territory."

But Sir Jim stopped short of saying circle time should be dropped.

Jenny Mosley, one of the pioneers of the technique in England, defended its use.

"A good circle time needs pace and rigor," she said. "But I wouldn't say that if it's done badly, get rid of it. I think heads ought to make sure teachers do it well.

"People sitting in a circle to find solutions and work together is as old as the hills. It should be as vibrant as any good lesson is vibrant."

Sir Jim said that his aim for the new curriculum was to deliver "a massive reinforcement of what everyone recognises as the basics for primary education - with the biggest impact hopefully being on literacy".

Timestables online

The new primary curriculum website to help teachers create tailored timetables is being launched today.

There are no complete schemes of work on the site, with teachers instead being encouraged to take a pick-and-mix approach.

John Crookes, head of the primary curriculum team at the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, said they were no longer producing schemes of work.

"They came to be associated with a prescriptive national curriculum," he said. "They were never mandatory and yet they did come to assume a status which was much greater than their original intention."

Teachers are being asked for feedback to improve the website.


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