Editorial - The primary review that got away

24th April 2009 at 01:00
If only Sir Jim had taken heed of our recommendations .

As the country prepares to welcome the final instalment of Sir Jim Rose's primary review with the traditional brickbats, sharpened knives and scorn (page 10), The TES would like to add its voice to the chorus of media disapproval and tell him exactly where he has been going wrong. Of course, this advice owes less to expertise and evaluation than it does to wine and prejudice, but the topic is far too important to be left to people who might know what they're talking about. It is obvious that Sir Jim should have recommended a curriculum based on "the six Hs" that guide so many of our respected opinion-formers:

1. Hysteria: children should be taught to acquire a condition of nervous excitement to accompany any attempt to teach sex education, sustainability or podcasting alongside the traditional litany of monarchs, rivers and capital cities. While the health of the planet and people are obviously important, are they as fundamental to a sound education as the proper placing of Henrys I to VIII or the correct position of Stevenage? If in doubt, teachers should encourage pupils to act like Fleet Street columnists and scream.

2. Hypocrisy: pupils should be made aware that while the third and fourth estates are happy to prescribe what children in council estates should learn down to the smallest detail, they are perfectly content to let private schools teach what they like. For instance, a nodding acquaintance with Shakespeare at IGCSE will suffice, but state schools that offer Bard-lite qualifications are obviously equipping their students for borstal. This is a vital life lesson all pupils should commit to heart.

3. Humility: this should be avoided at all costs. Experience shows that even when powerful people have the honesty to admit that things aren't what they should be and try to seek a solution, they receive little credit because the pundits have scripted the verdict in advance. Pupils would be better advised to take an extra module in hypocrisy (see above).

4. Hubris: according to the Greeks, those who display unreasonable pride should suffer great misfortune. This is nonsense. No politician who has inflicted damaging policies on education has yet to suffer the consequences. Children could debate whether a nation that fiddled its entry into the euro should be relied on to give anyone sound advice.

5. Hitler: his invisibility in the draft primary curriculum is a disgrace. Although children will be pickled in the Second World War by the time they leave the education system, one really cannot have too much of the Nazis.

6. Headlines: pupils should comprehend from an early age that these are held in high regard by almost everyone. Their precise relationship to facts has yet to be determined by scientists but no one doubts that "Out with the Tudors and in with twittering", say, is a more effective way of communicating facts than sober analysis.

If only Sir Jim had consulted us before writing his report, none of the outrage heaped on him since could have been avoided.

Gerard Kelly, Editor

E gerard.kelly@tes.co.uk.

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