Could the arts be as important as maths?

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Subjects such as drama and music should be given the same status in primary schools as English and maths, Britain's biggest teachers' union has suggested
Subjects such as drama and music should be given the same status in primary schools as English and maths, Britain's biggest teachers' union has suggested.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has submitted this proposal for the new primary curriculum, which Sir Jim Rose is drawing up for 2011. The union wants the distinction between core and foundation subjects to be ditched, and warns that the current system risks marginalising arts subjects to the status of "additional extras" tagged on to the end of the school day.

Sir Jim, who has been put in charge of reviewing the curriculum, previously produced the 2006 report on reading that prompted the introduction of compulsory synthetic phonics teaching.

The curriculum review was originally announced as a way of making room for the introduction of modern foreign languages.

Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, has also asked Sir Jim to tackle some long-standing issues: whether the curriculum in Years 1 and 2 is too formal; reducing prescription; increasing flexibility over when children can start school; analysing what personal and social skills children need; and looking at how to raise attainment in reading, writing and numeracy.

Interested parties had until Wednesday to submit their recommendations. Others are expected to make theirs public in due course.

In its submission, the NUT said there should be a 5-14 curriculum framework, which would set out what children were entitled to by law, including literacy, numeracy, creative arts and a modern foreign language. The actual content would be given as guidance only, allowing schools to meet local needs.

The union also wants Years 1 and 2 to be less formal. It argues that increasing pressure to introduce formal learning in reception must stop. One early-years teacher who wrote to the union said: "Already in some settings, children as young as two are made to complete worksheets to show parents that they are learning their letters and numbers; if they can't do them, they are 'helped' by poorly trained staff."

Sir Jim's interim report is due in October and his final recommendations in March 2009.

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