Science should be dropped as one of the tested core primary subjects to be replaced by ICT, according to a government-sponsored report recommending changes to the curriculum from 2011.
Sir Jim Rose, who carried out the independent review for the Government, has suggested "literacy, numeracy and ICT should form the new core" and should be assessed.
Science has been a core subject of the national curriculum since 1989, while ICT did not even become an official curriculum subject until 1995. The key stage tests in the core subjects of English, maths and science were introduced in the mid-1990s. Science is the subject in which 11-year- olds have done best: 88 per cent reached level 4 last year compared to 81 per cent in English and 79 per cent in maths.
But with no national targets, it has never been as politically sensitive as the English and maths tests.
The key stage 2 science Sats may still be retained as the Government was expected to leave that decision in the hands of the "expert group" examining assessments, which includes Sir Jim.
The National Association of Head Teachers is due to vote this weekend over whether it will join the NUT in balloting for a boycott of the tests next year.
Under Sir Jim's proposals, science will continue to be key to the curriculum. It will be included in "scientific and technical understanding", one of six broad areas of learning (see panel, below) designed to encourage more cross-curricular teaching and smooth the transition between early years and secondary. But Sir Jim stressed that this would not mean scrapping traditional subjects. "Subjects remain as recognisable, powerful organisers of worthwhile curriculum content in the areas of learning," his report said.
Sir Jim has not budged from his recommendation in the interim report that all children begin reception in the September after they turn four, which is the case in most authorities, but is not supported by the Government's early years advisers. The final report nods towards widespread concern saying that parents' views should be taken into account and part-time attendance allowed.
Sir Jim was also asked to review two of the 69 early learning goals for five-year-olds: that children begin to write simple sentences and use their phonic knowledge to attempt complex words.
The emphasis on ICT has been welcomed by Becta, the government agency for technology in learning. Stephen Crowne, its chief executive, said: "Without an appropriate emphasis on technology from an early age there is the risk of a digital underclass developing."
The Government will now decide which recommendations to take forward, then the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will carry out a formal 12- week consultation. The new curriculum would then be sent to schools at the end of this year, giving teachers and heads about five terms to prepare for its implementation in 2011.
Before any major changes are adopted, a general election must take place and the Conservatives have made it clear they will abandon the Rose review if they win.
Sir Jim's six areas of learning
- Understanding English, communication and languages
- Mathematical understanding
- Scientific and technological understanding
- Historical, geographical and social understanding*
- Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing*
- Understanding the arts*
* Changed since the interim report.