Expensive primary review that is only stating the obvious?

27th February 2009 at 00:00

The recently-published Cambridge Review of the primary curriculum raised issues which are sadly familiar to any teacher who has worked in the primary sector over the past two decades ("Tomorrow's primaries: 2 reviews, 1 debate", TES, February 20).

So well known are these problems, and so often have they been reported, that many teachers will wonder why so much money has been spent producing a report that is little more than a statement of the obvious.

The review calls for greater breadth and balance in the curriculum. But in fact, the curriculum contains 13 distinct and diverse subjects. It therefore already contains the potential for pupils to be offered a broad and balanced learning experience. So why is there the seemingly obsessive focus on literacy and numeracy?

The answer is obvious, but unfortunately repeatedly missed. The curriculum is narrowed and distorted by the high-stakes school accountability regime based on Ofsted inspections and performance league tables. The fixation of that regime on English and mathematics has meant that teachers, headteachers and schools face severe potential consequences if they are perceived to have "failed" by the narrow standards used. Is it therefore any surprise that teachers teach to the tests?

Without radical changes to the school accountability system, any review of the primary curriculum is essentially a waste of time as it will be undermined in practice.

Chris Keates, General secretary, NASUWT.

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