Something new, something old;Briefing;Curriculum 2000;News and opinion

A round-up of what's new in ... Science

A new programme of study, scientific enquiry, replaces experimental and investigative science in all key stages. It is designed to give more prominence to the history and philosophy of science and improve understanding of how scientists work.

Primary

There is little change. At key stage 1, knowledge of animals as well as humans has been included under "Life processes and living things".

The main change in key stage 2 is the removal of the requirement to teach balanced and unbalanced forces and saturated solutions.

Secondary

Some elements such as sexual reproduction of plants and classification of solids, liquids and gases have been removed to avoid repetition of the primary curriculum. Elasticity and the formation of rocks are no longer part of key stage 4.

VERDICT

The Association of Science Education welcomes the creation of scientific enquiry and believes the lack of change will give teachers time to make lessons more interesting.

"The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Government have given us the minimal amount of change we asked for," said Rebecca Edwards, chair of ASE. "We are looking forward to working with them on the next phase of gradual change to ensure that science is relevant for the 21st century."

Information and Communications Technology

The subject has been renamed to emphasise the importance of communication in information technology. In an attempt to improve clarity, the use of technical language in the curriculum has been reduced. Health and safety is now covered by a separate statement regarding the whole curriculum.

Primary

Few changes. There is more emphasis on information gathering and presentation at key stage 1 and children aged seven-11 will be taught to use e-mail. Pupils will be expected to be able to talk about their work.

Secondary

Little change. The key stage 4 curriculum has been altered to bring it into line with key skill units for IT. As at primary, examples and links to other subjects are included.

VERDICT

There is concern about whether the aims of the curriculum will be translated into the classroom.

"The problem is that it is assumed that teachers have a specialism in the subjects. That is not always the case in IT," said Margaret Cox, spokeswoman for the Association of Co-ordinators of Teachers in Information Technology. "We are also concerned about the confusion which will be produced by the change in name. ICT is not the common terminology used in other sectors of education."

English

Primary

As expected. The new curriculum is more closely linked to the national literacy strategy (NLS). Drama and extended texts and writing are included. National tests remain the same. Texts at key stages 1 and 2 remain discretionary.

Secondary

Suggested lists of authors have been added for contemporary works, non-fiction and works from different cultures. The list of pre-1914 authors remains statutory. Pupils will be expected to read complete novels, plays and poems.

Requirements for speaking and listening - especially for drama - have been strengthened. The place of alternative media - such as newspapers and the Internet - has been clarified. A revised access statement includes all pupils, not just boys as originally suggested.

VERDICT

"The primary curriculum does not make clear what people do beyond the NLS. It needs to give more emphasis to longer texts and extended writing," said a spokesperson for the National Association for the Teaching of English.

And while NATE welcomes the increased emphasis, for all age groups, on drama and media, it believes the latter does not go far enough. "It should be a curriculum for the 21st century but instead it's looking back to the 19th."

History

Primary

Key stage 1 Teachers have broad freedom to choose content within the prescribed skills. The emphasis is on listening and responding to stories.

Key stage 2 The prescribed content has been reduced within the existing units and there is more choice within the options about the Victorians and Britain after 1930. Pupils are required to use ICT to find out information.

Secondary

Key stage 3 Pupils should be taught about "significant" individuals. There are suggestions but no prescribed list. ICT is required for finding out and communicating information and pupils must also be able to communicate their understanding through speaking and ICT as well as writing. The British units no longer have to be taught in chronological order. Local history has to be included within "Britain 1750-1900", but there no longer has to be an in-depth study within the "Twentieth century world" unit.

VERDICT

The increased flexibility has been generally welcomed, along with greater emphasis on local history and a wider use of ICT. However, there will still be pressure to ensure the coverage is adequate, both in terms of the overview and the detail, therefore teachers will need adequate planning time.

Geography

Primary

Key stage 1 The "Quality of the Environment" theme has been removed, although environmental change and sustainable development will still be taught as part of pupils' work on their own area and a contrasting locality.

Key stage 2 The weather unit has been sacrificed. Students will have to choose between studying their local area or studying a contrasting UK locality, instead of studying both. There have also been reductions in the content of the settlement theme.

Secondary

The secondary curriculum has not been subject to major change but now allows greater freedom in the choice of country topics and within the themes of study.

The expansion of citizenship and personal, social and health education will give extra opportunities to study issues such as global citizenship and sustainable development in the secondary (and primary) sector.

VERDICT

Keith Grimwade, chair of the Geography Association's education committee, said:

"We are disappointed that there has been a reduction in geography, which reflects the general slimming down in the national curriculum review. But I would say that the spirit of the programme of study is still there. Geographic enquiry - the asking and answering of geographic questions to make the subject investigative rather than passive - is, if anything, a little more high-profile."

Maths

Primary

There is an increased emphasis on number and mental arithmetic at key stage 1 and the early part of key stage 2, reflecting a general move to align the curriculum with the requirements of the national numeracy strategy. At key stage 2, the increased workload has been balanced by a reduction in the work on hand-ling data.

Secondary

The joint key stages 3 and 4 programme has been split into two programmes of study, with key stage 4 divided into foundation and higher levels. The new foundation level is designed to engage students who have fallen behind in the subject and is advertised as "providing a range of real-life context (which) should help teachers motivate disaffected pupils".

Throughout both key stages, the algebra, shape, space and measures sections have been given more specific programmes of study. The teaching of statistics is recast to emphasise its practical use.

VERDICT

Steve Abbott, president elect of the Mathematical Association, said: "We generally welcome the changes in the detail of the curriculum. The new approaches to statistics and algebra, in particular, are positive. But we were not convinced by the playing around with key stages 3 and 4.

"The assumption at key stage 3 seems to be that pupils are going to come in having fairly well absorbed the numeracy strategy, and we know that is not realistic. And the foundation level actually doesn't appear very different from the key stage 3 content, despite what they are saying about increasing relevance."

Personal and social health

education

Primary

Joint non-statutory guidance will cover both citizenship and personal, social and health education in primary schools. At key stage 1 pupils are expected to be taught the difference between right and wrong, how their behaviour affects others and to take responsibility for their actions.

Looking after money, self-awareness, healthy lifestyles and drugs are major features of key stage 2. Tackling racism and bullying are also included.

Secondary

The first statutory citizenship curriculum encompasses politics, law, economics and the media. It also includes the role of national and international institutions such as the European Union. Pupils are expected to explain both sides of an argument and take part in debates. They are also expected to become involved in school and community activities.

The guidance on PSHE builds on the themes covered in the primary guidance. Basic first aid, resisting peer pressure, sex education, the importance of marriage and where to go for information and advice are also included for 11- to 14-year-olds. Older pupils are expected to learn about eating disorders, stress and depression.

VERDICT

"I'm delighted that all the best bits of the Crick report are in the curriculum. The training of teachers and curriculum materials will be crucial," said Jenny Talbot, chief executive of the Institute for Citizenship.

Modern

languages

Primary

The QCA will provide non-statutory guidance on introducing languages to primary schools.

Secondary

Pupils must continue to learn at least one language at key stages 3 and 4. The restricted list of non-EU languages has been dropped, but schools must offer at least one EU language.

Prescription has been reduced by removing the sub-topics for the areas of experience; the statement on the use of the target language has been revised and clarity improved; parts 1 and 2 of the programme of study have been merged to put more emphasis on the development of knowledge and skills, including grammar.

VERDICT

Brigitte Boyce, director of the Association for Language Learning, said members welcomed the fact that modern foreign languages would remain compulsory and the programmes of study would be simplified. But she was concerned at the Government's proposal to allow some older pupils to drop either design and technology or modern languages if their school can show that an alternative programme would be more appropriate.

"This would give opportunities to undermine the legal framework for pupils to learn a language," she said.

Design and

technology

Primary

Key stages 1 and 2 Slimmed down and less prescriptive programmes of study by reducing the range of materials and removing requirements to disassemble and use structures.

Increased emphasis on the application of ICT.

Secondary

At both key stages the requirements about designing and making skills and applying knowledge and understanding have been clarified by conflating them into four strands: developing, planning and communicating ideas; working with tools, equipment, materials and components; evaluating processes and products; and applying knowledge and understanding.

Key stage 3 Electronics, computer-aided design and manufacture, smart materials are included in the programme of study. Food technology remains optional.

Key stage 4 The two attainment targets have been combined to reflect changes in the curriculum, simplify assessment and reflect better the interdependence of designing and making.

The Education Secretary is consulting on plans to allow 14-year-olds to drop design and technology andor modern foreign languages if their school can show that an alternative programme would be more appropriate.

VERDICT

The Design and Technology Association (DATA) said: "Overall, despite some inconsistencies and omissions, this provides a sound basis for taking the subjects forward into the early part of the 21st century."

But Andy Breckon, the chief executive of DATA, regretted the failure to make food technology compulsory at key stage 3, as 73 per cent of those consulted were in favour.

The Engineering Council is worried about the disapplication of the subject as it claims this will scupper efforts to develop a technologically literate society.

Physical

education

Primary

Key stage 1 Not much change, apart from a subtle shift of emphasis - dance, not games, comes first on the list.

Key stage 2 The areas of activity are reduced from six to five with dance, games and gymnastics still required, but pupils can choose two activities from swimming, athletics or outdoor and adventure activities. Swimming must be one choice unless pupils have completed the requirement at the first key stage.

Secondary

Key stage 3 The system of whole and half units is dropped and replaced by four areas of activity: games and dance or gym, then a choice of swimming, athletics or outdoor and adventure activities.

Key stage 4 Games become optional. Pupils must do two of the six activities. They can also choose to focus on competing, promoting health or personal fitness and decide on roles to suit them: performer, coach, leader or official. Suggestions for linking ITC are made throughout all stages.

VERDICT

A welcome for dropping compulsory games. The National Council for School Sport and the Central Council of Physical Recreation said 99 per cent of schools would offer team games and children had already had nine years' experience and should be allowed to choose activities that suited them. But they are worried that schools will drop adventure activities as they are "perceived to be dangerous and expensive", said a CCPR official.

Music

The two attainment targets of performing and composing and listening and appraising have been combined to integrate the practical and theoretical aspects of the subject. Generally more emphasis on ICT.

Primary

Key stages 1 and 2 Generally less prescriptive as some requirements have been removed.

Secondary

Rewritten to clarify and give teachers the chance to teach topics in depth.

VERDICT

General approval for the move to one attainment target. "Sensible," said Richard Crozier, of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. "The best of the current order is preserved and the presentation of the statutory requirements to classroom teachers is much improved."

Art and design

The subject has been renamed to reflect the breadth of the subject and to meet the needs of the design and creative industries.

Primary

Key stages 1 and 2 Slimmed down by removing the requirements to cover the full range of specific processes: drawing, painting, ceramics, for example. Teachers should be aware of ICT links.

Secondary

The requirement to select works from a particular named period - classical and medieval, Renaissance - has been dropped. The two attainment targets have been combined to integrate the practical and theoretical aspects of the subject.

VERDICT

Georgina Follett of the Chartered Society of Designers, was disappointed that design had not been recognised in its own right in the curriculum.

Christopher Naylor, director of Engage, the national association for gallery education, wanted a higher priority for contemporary art as "this is what children are excited by", and he felt there could have been more emphasis on contact with original work, live artists and exhibitions.

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