Sunday 9 December 2007

Cutting the clutter

The government is placing considerable store on its new Children's Plan to be published on Tuesday. Newspapers have been filled with tales of bans on TV advertising and other 'talking point' issues guaranteed to gain space on a Sunday. But what will matter most is what is planned for the primary school curriculum. And in that respect, it is good news, as Ed Balls told Andrew Marr this morning, that Sir Jim Rose, the former Ofsted inspector who led the 2005 review of reading, is to lead a review of its content. His presence should ensure a sound series of recommendations.

There are some clear priorities. For a start, the government must ensure that phonics is being used much more widely to teach children to read early on. And the teaching of the basics must be given the level of priority in primaries that it had before Charles Clarke's decision to emasculate literacy and numeracy within an all-embracing primary strategy. Then, it is right to turn testing from a one-off event at 11 for all into progress testing while ready, so long as the tests are externally set and validated, and performance tables continue at Key Stage 2; but, a similar approach is needed for 7 and 8 year-olds so that teachers and parents have an accurate baseline from which to work. Finally, Rose must be given the freedom to cut the clutter in primary schools. That means teachers not being expected to put social work before teaching; by all means, provide the wrap-round facilities around schools, but don't clutter the curriculum in ways that divert primary schools from their primary task.

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