Consider What Constitues a Meaningful, Balanced Primary Curriculum

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The Primary Curriculum has undergone many changes in the past 2 decades and is now in wait of another major change. The new curriculum is now expected to be implemented in September of 2014 (DfE, 2012).

The changes happening in education are vast, for the purposes of this essay I will discuss general change but highlight key changes in strategies for literacy.

In any educational system there is a need for consistency. Before the National Strategy in 1989-1990 this was not the case. The National Curriculum bought standardisation for the first time as everyone would follow a common framework of subjects and learning. The 1995 version slimmed down the original curriculum and focused on the key components. Here came the criticism that ‘Guided Reading’ became too much the focus as a teaching strategy. The 3rd version in 2000 focused more on the key aspects of skills and teaching in a cross-curricular way, but why all these changes? These changes have come about because of informed educational research and review over the years that have driven key changes forward. The main driving researches in my view are the ‘Rose Report’, ‘Cambridge Primary Review’ and most recently the ‘Tickell Review’ which has bought further changes in EYFS learning areas.

Under the Labour Government in 2008, Sir Jim Rose led the Rose Review and recommended 6 areas of learning. These areas of learning will be influential in the forthcoming curriculum changes, where a major overhaul is expected. The EYFS initially replaced the Birth to 3/Foundation Stage and streamlined the early years so that all childcare settings were following one curriculum. As a previous child-minder I agree this to be a positive move. The new improved EYFS has been published to be rolled out in schools from September 2012 (DfE 2012). It aims to be a strategy that is less bureaucratic and caters for ‘today’s child and society’.

The Evidence paper into Phonics (DfE) found that children in England are falling behind in reading. To tackle this there will be an introduction to phonics screening expected to start June this year (DfE, 2012). The children who have not reached a standard need to be given extra support. This is a means to measure attainment and benchmark progress.

However, the introduction of Phonics screening somewhat contradicts the DfE claims (White Paper: The importance of teaching) that teachers and schools would be given more freedom to set clear expectations of what children should know. The recent 2007 overhaul was described as a backwards step as ‘concepts were replaced by vague generic statements of little value’ (Oates, Cambridge assessment). I would have to agree as my experience tells me that most schools still used the ‘Old National Strategy’. This shows me that although teachers like the idea of a more creative approach, they still like the security and structure the 1998 strategy provides; as agreed in other research and review (Pollard A., et al, 1994, P.104), (Alexander R., 2010, ch 14).

Furthermore, the Cambridge Review discusses that there is a fear of a ‘downward pressure’ on KS1 and the Early Years in respect of Literacy and Phonics (Alexander, ed, 2010, p.239). This alongside changes as a result of the Rose Report has put more pressure on literacy in the Early Years. Although there is pressure, I would have to agree that it is necessary. Problems need to be picked up early, if ignored then children struggle through the remainder of their school life because they cannot access reading, writing and speaking.

Michael Gove said in a press notice (DfE, 2011) ‘The pace of economic and technological change is accelerating and our children are being left behind’. Society is rapidly changing with technological advances and the curriculum needs to keep up with it. An article in the Guardian (Polly Curtis, 2009) suggests there are rightly many favoured views as the new curriculum would support a new generation of...
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