Teaching topics

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
The "f" word is back - and in no less a publication than The TES (June 8).

Apparently, the Government wants to make primary schools more... wait for it... "fun". And the way to make them more fun is for children to do more topics.

There is nothing wrong with occasional topics - there never has been and never will be. Taught well, they provide a wide range of learning experiences.

Unfortunately, as a basis for the curriculum they do not present a coherent view of the world; nor do they provide a structured approach to what is learnt. For older pupils, traditional subject areas offer greater coherence and better progression.

To say, as some do, that subject teaching is "boring" - the "b" word - is ridiculous. How on earth can learning about the Romans be boring? How can doing experiments with light-bulbs not be interesting, or studying the local environment? I have never come across primary-aged pupils who have been bored by these activities.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Plowden report. One of its many shortcomings was to promote the use of cross-curricular studies in the classroom that contributed to 25 years of confusion.

We should learn the lessons of Plowden by not returning to topics but continuing to excite children about the great bodies of knowledge which inform them about their world.

Alan Kerr Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

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