Cambridge University, having undertaken three years of academic research, considered 29 research papers and participated in dozens of public meetings around the country, has just made public the findings of the biggest review of the primary school curriculum in 40 years. It should make uncomfortable reading for the government. Its major finding is that the government’s insistence that schools focus on literacy and numeracy at the expense of creative teaching means that the children are not getting the well-rounded education they are entitled to.
The Guardian’s education editor, Polly Curtis, has written a good summary of what the report says. Here are a few choice excerpts:
Labour has failed to tackle decades of over-prescription in the curriculum and added to it with its own strategies in literacy and numeracy, which take up nearly half the school week, the Cambridge University review of the primary curriculum found.
The review finds:
• Children are losing out on a broad, balanced and rich curriculum with art, music, drama, history and geography the biggest casualties.
• The curriculum, and crucially English and maths, have been “politicised”.
• The focus on literacy and numeracy in the run-up to national tests has “squeezed out” other areas of learning.
• The Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which sets the curriculum, have been excessively prescriptive, “micro-managing” schools.
The review accuses the government of attempting to control what happens in every classroom in England, leading to an excessive focus on literacy and numeracy in an “overt politicisation” of children’s lives. Despite this too many children still leave primary school having failed to master the 3Rs.
Sats have also narrowed the scope of what is taught in schools, it claims, concluding: “The problem of the curriculum is inseparable from the problem of assessment and testing.”
You wonder just how many times the government has to be told something is not working before it gets the message.