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Time to put teachers at the heart of the debate

The five-year moratorium doesn't mean that the primary curriculum has to change in the year 2000. Most teachers would probably be grateful for a longer period of stability. The short timescale seems to suggest that if there is to be change in 2000, it will only be round the edges, writes Diane Hofkins.

Some educationists would prefer to see a more fundamental review of the primary curriculum and its purposes, conducted over a longer period of time and concentrating on principles and values. The present curriculum is backed by no stated philosophy beyond the 1988 Education Act's assertion that it should promote "the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils" and prepare them "for the opportunities, responsibilities and experience of adult life".

People should understand the rationale for any curriculum, says the Primary Education Study Group, an ad hoc collection of chief education officers, heads and inspectors, governors and academics. It has drawn up some issues it wants the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to consider.

Teachers, it says, should be at the heart of any debate, and children and the public should also be involved. "We need an audit of where we are and how we move forward," carried out by the type of committee that produced the 1967 Plowden Report, the group says.

"We need to recognise the effects of technology and the issues that learners face as they approach the 21st century. It is therefore not compatible with a 'quick fix' review." It wants SCAA to look at how schools and community resources should be used to support and develop the child, incorporating a view of different agencies' involvement, and the roles of parents and governors.

A range of views of how children learn should be taken into account, the group says, including the work of Howard Gardner on different kinds of intelligence (such as factual, linguistic, spacial and social), and the latest neurological research.

The emphasis of the primary curriculum should be on skills and concepts, rather than knowledge, they argue. It should concentrate on children's strengths rather than their weaknesses.

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