Science should be dropped as one of the tested core primary subjects in England to be replaced by ICT, according to a report sponsored by the Westminster Government which recommended changes to the primary curriculum from 2011.
Sir Jim Rose, who carried out the independent review for the Government, has suggested that "literacy, numeracy and ICT should form the new core" and should be assessed.
But the report may prove to have a very short shelf life: before any major changes are adopted, a general election must take place and the Conservatives have made it clear that they will abandon the Rose review in its entirety if they win.
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, with 88 per cent reaching level 4 last year compared to 81 per cent in English and 78 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 Sat tests (for 11-year-olds) 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 and is due to report back in the next few weeks. The National Union of Teachers in England is to ballot its members on a boycott of the tests.
Under Sir Jim's proposals, science will continue to be a key part of the curriculum. It will be included in "scientific and technical understanding", one of the six broad areas of learning designed to encourage more cross-curricular teaching and smoothe the transition between early years and secondary (see panel).
But Sir Jim, in comments which reflect the similar tensions involving subjects in A Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, 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, a former primary chief in the English Ofsted inspectorate, 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. He has recommended they are kept as "valid, aspirational" goals.
The emphasis on ICT has been welcomed by Becta, the Government agency for technology in learning in England. Stephen Crowne, 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; the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will then carry out a formal 12- week consultation.
The new curriculum is expected to be sent to schools at the end of this year, giving teachers and heads about five terms to prepare for its possible implementation in 2011.
SIR JIM'S SIX AREAS OF LEARNING
1. Understanding English, communication and languages
2. Mathematical understanding
3. Scientific and technological understanding
4. Historical, geographical and social understanding*
5. Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing*
6. Understanding the arts*
* Changed since the interim report.