Political scuppering of primary curriculum is a farce

16th April 2010 at 01:00

At the heart of education policy in this country lies not the child, but a profoundly damaging party political point-scoring wrangle. The political manoeuvring that has seen the abandonment of the new primary curriculum is a testimony to this.

In the past four years we have had two major reviews of the primary curriculum. The Rose Review provided the basis for the proposed new curriculum. The Cambridge Primary Review was a politically independent review grounded in extensive, ground-breaking consultation and steeped in national and international research.

The findings of both emphasised the need for more flexible approaches to teaching and learning, less prescription, the need to return to the fundamental principles of primary education and its core purposes. Both focused on what is required for real learning and both, to differing degrees, analysed the problems implicit in a system dominated by external testing and end of key stage results. Both identified the problems of a narrowly subject-driven curriculum that puts an emphasis on literacy and numeracy in such a way that has created a two-tier curriculum now a barrier to raising standards. Never before have those at the chalkface been as widely consulted and involved in the debate.

Above all else, the new curriculum was designed to offer schools flexibility and autonomy. If the Conservatives genuinely want to give more freedom and autonomy to schools, how can they justify blocking a curriculum designed to do precisely that? In light of all that has happened over the past four years, how can any party justify plans for yet another review of the curriculum?

Where does all of this leave the teachers, heads and all those genuinely concerned with providing the best possible education for young learners in England? Such uncertainty and ill-informed decision making does not serve the best interests of learners.

Marilyn Mottram, Vice-president of the UK Literacy Association (Writing in a personal capacity).

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