Tidier summary of trimmer figures

11th November 1994 at 00:00
Diane Hofkins describes the finishing touches which have made the new curriculum Order more than the sum of its parts. In the final Order, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority has clarified and sharpened the proposal which went out to consultation last May, but there has been little change other than further structural improvements. Most respondents felt the content was about right, although a sizeable minority thought it was still overloaded at key stage 1. Level descriptions have been made more concise, particularly in the Number and Algebra attainment target, where they had been particularly long.

The emphasis in the new Order has been on clearing space and time for basic number work in the early years by moving some topics into later key stages; making the requirements clearer by grouping related work together; and setting out the programmes of study by key stage rather than by level, to make the maths curriculum consistent with the others.

Most teachers felt the emphasis on number work in the primary years was appropriate.

The only really controversial aspect of the May proposals - the suggestion that the more process-based attainment target, Using and Applying Mathematics, might be integrated into the other ATs - has been dropped.

The key messages which were in the introductory paragraphs of the draft Order are now instead revealed in terms of opportunities for pupils. The programmes of study now devote little space to setting out the purposes of the Order, but launch into statements of what opportunities pupils should be given and what they should be taught.

For instance, in Using and Applying Mathematics at key stage 2, pupils should be given opportunities to "ask questions and follow alternative suggestions to support the development of reasoning". Because this AT overarches all the others, the "opportunity" relates to various aspects they should be taught across the subject, such as "draw conclusions from statistics and graphs and recognise why some conclusions can be uncertain or misleading".

Most respondents to the consultation agreed that the proposals showed how progression should work across key stages, but "The level descriptions were not viewed as either helpful or unhelpful in clarifying progression."

The number of attainment targets has been reduced from five to three at KSl and from five to four at KS 2, 3, and 4. They are: Using and Applying Mathematics; Number (KS l and 2) and Number and Algebra (KS 3 and 4); Shape Space and Measures; and Handling Data (KS 2-4).

Some consultees were unhappy with the merged number and algebra AT, so there are now separate sections within the programme of study at key stages 3 and 4. However, the level descriptions remain combined, and some teachers are still not convinced this will make for manageable assessment.

At key stages 3 and 4, references to bearings and vectors - cut in the May proposals - have been reinstated. Several respondents to the consultation thought bearings were needed as a context for questions about trigonometry and many argued that vectors were needed to ensure appropriate preparation for pupils going on to take maths at A-level.

At key stage 4, the Order will have to fit in with requirements for core skills in the Part 1 GNVQs for students wanting a more vocational orientation. Neither the KS4 national curriculum subject requirements nor the new GNVQs will come into effect until September 1996, but they are being published separately. The vocational proposals have now gone to the Secretary of State, and will be published shortly.

However, it looks as though the programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4 should provide the numeracy skills support which will be needed by those following the GNVQ.

Such students will be applying their maths in a vocational context, but would not necessarily need a different basic curriculum. In terms of basic core skills, the emphasis on number at the lower end of the key stage 3 programme - which extends down to level 3, where mental arithmetic and decimal notation feature - should help it fit the bill.

Key changes from the current Order General: * some content trimmed at each key stage; * number of ATs reduced from five to three at KS1 and four at KS 2-4; * key stage programmes of study replace level-related programmes; * a joint programme of study for key stages 3 and 4, with further material specified for KS4; * programmes set out in sections describing "opportunities" which pupils should be given and what they should be taught; * time for number work freed at KS 1 and 2 by moving and deleting content * level descriptions replace statements of attainment.

Key stage 1 * probability has been deferred to KS2.

Key stage 2 * clearer and more explicit references to skills of calculation, showing what sort of number work pupils should do; * work on using networks to solve problems has been deleted; * all material currently specified at level 6 has been deferred. Maths was the only subject to include level 6 in KS2 programmes of study; * aspects of data-handling, such as the treatment of continuous data; complex measurement concepts such as finding areas and volumes using formulae and using co-ordinates in all four quadrants, and some decimal work have been deferred to secondary school.

Key stages 3 and 4 * using networks to solve problems, constructing and interpreting flow diagrams and using co-ordinates in 3D are no longer required.

Key stage 4 (further material) * calculating growth and decay rates; interpreting and using coefficients in quadratics; using matrices to define transformations and interpreting critical path diagrams have been deleted.

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