Juniors spend half their time on three Rs

6th June 2003 at 01:00
Many primary staff say they no longer offer a balanced timetable.

Warwick Mansell and Emily Clark report.

THE proportion of time junior schools spend teaching subjects other than English and maths has fallen by more than 10 per cent since 1997, an official survey has revealed.

The first detailed, government-backed analysis of curriculum changes since the introduction of the literacy and numeracy strategies reveals that primary schools now spend half the week on the two subjects.

Primaries spent 49 per cent of their time at key stage 2 on English and maths in 2001, compared to 42 per cent in 1997. At KS1, the figures rose from 46 to 50 per cent.

The decline of seven percentage points in the time devoted to other subjects at KS2 represents a cut of about one-eighth from the 1997 figure.

As a result, staff at more than a quarter of the primaries surveyed admit that the emphasis on English and maths means they are now unable to provide a balanced curriculum.

The findings come in a survey of 294 schools for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority by the Centre for Formative Assessment Studies at Manchester University.

They will be seized upon by those arguing that the emphasis on the 3Rs is squeezing out wider learning, and come as The TES continues to campaign for more freedom for creativity in primary schools.

The Government tried again this week to persuade the public that it values creativity more than exam and test results.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke and Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell announced extra funding for a scheme which provides links between deprived schools and the arts world.

Ms Jowell said: "The Government has been portrayed as being obsessed with league tables and rankings, which can have the effect of sucking the joy out of being at school.

"It is more to do with perception than reality, but if we allow this to persist we run the risk of frustrating parents and deadening the spirit of our children."

An extra pound;70 million was announced for Creative Partnerships, which have enabled children from 16 of England's most deprived areas to benefit from trips to theatres, museums and galleries.

Last year, a study for the National Union of Teachers found some schools were spending as little as half an hour a week on music and not offering art in Year 6, because of testing, targets and league tables.

Last month, the Government published a primary strategy which will allow schools to set their own test targets at KS2. The QCA is also sending all teachers lesson ideas designed to encourage pupils' creativity.

The Manchester research found, however, that 95 per cent of teachers believed that the literacy and numeracy strategies had improved teaching and raised attainment.

Primary forum, 19 Analysis, 20 Leader, 22 Opinion, 23

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