Literacy hour focus 'ousts other subjects';News;News and opinion

26th November 1999 at 00:00
THE LITERACY HOUR has forced nearly four out of 10 primary schools to cut teaching time in other subjects, according to a new survey.

Schools believe they lack the time to teach history, geography and design and technology properly because of the focus on literacy and numeracy, a survey of 333 primaries for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has found.

Since last year, primary teachers have been free to ignore the national syllabuses for geography, history, design and technology, music, art and physical education to allow them time to introduce the literacy and numeracy strategies.

They were instructed to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum but schools that dropped all bar the basics face upheaval in September when, once again, they will be obliged to teach the full national curriculum.

Seventy per cent of primaries said they had made significant changes to their timetables since the curriculum was relaxed, the first official survey on the impact of the literacy hour has found.

Nearly half of primary schools said their curriculum priorities had changed since the introduction of the literacy hour last year.

Only 2 per cent of respondents now consider the humanities a high priority, while 4 per cent rate design and technology highly.

History and geography are now the subjects taught the least often to infants - one school in eight teaches them just one term in three. One-third of primaries said they were spending more time on teaching English since the introduction of the literacy hour.

Every age group - from reception to Year 6 - spends more than an hour a day on English on average, the QCA survey found.

Meanwhile, another QCA survey of nearly 300 secondary schools found that most are opposed to the compulsory citizenship lessons due in 2002. Sixty-five per cent of deputy heads surveyed objected to the introduction of a new statutory subject although more than 90 per cent said they would welcome non-statutory guidance.

National testing of 14-year-olds has changed the way two-thirds of secondary schools teach. Eighty per cent admitted that breadth had been sacrificed in order to prepare pupils for the tests.

A QCA spokesman said: "A QCA primary teacher development group is currently producing guidance on how to effectively tackle issues such as how to deliver a rounded and balanced curriculum.

" By using a combination of subject expertise and solid practical classroom knowledge, this guidance will be relevant and useful to teachers. This guidance will be sent to primary schools next Easter."

The new curriculum, 20-25

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