Turning the tables on prescription

A document advising on how heads and teachers can re-think fundamental timetabling issues from how many terms to have a year to whether core subjects can be taught in a mixture of morning and afternoon sessions - has been sent to schools by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, writes Adam Jezard. But it has been criticised by the National Union of Teachers, who argue that it discourages cross-curricular topic work.

Designing and Timetabling the Primary Curriculum outlines schools' legal requirements while offering more scope and flexibility to headteachers. The document also suggests they put issues such as the amount of weekly teaching hours, lesson length and how to maximise the use of resources on to the agenda when changing the school day.

The document is part of the Government's strategy to increase the teaching of subjects, such as PE and music, that had been squeezed to make way for more literacy and numeracy. A QCA spokeswoman told The TES: "This guidance will give all schools the information and confidence to make their own decisions about the nature and shape of their curriculum." It includes case studies showing how various schools have allocated time to different national curriculum subjects. For instance, some schools have broken convention by moving some of their literacy and numeracy hour sessions to the afternoon.

However, John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, said the document could seriously damage cross-curricular work. The union recently published a study which found that this had decreased from 33 per cent to 11 per cent of school lesson time over the past 30 years (see page 39).

"I really wish the QCA hadn't published this document," Mr Bangs said. "There are some good messages in it about how it is up to heads to organise the curriculum, but the downside is the materials, which the QCA says are 'advisory' but which are always given undue weight by teaching staff. These show minutes and hours set against national curriculum subjects. What happens is that the teachers will look at the document and think that this is what they are supposed to do. The QCA should have done something much more radical."

* The QCA is expected to overhaul the geography and history schemes of work so that they share some units. The new guidance, to be published in 2003, will also tackle how to write primary schemes so that they are tailored to a school's location and to pupils' needs.

The timetabling document can be downloaded from www.qca.org.ukca5-14learning_prim_curr.asp

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you