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Tuesday, January 13, 1998 Published at 13:36 GMT



UK

Lukewarm reception for classroom changes
image: [ Some teachers fear that the changes will narrow the curriculum for children ]
Some teachers fear that the changes will narrow the curriculum for children

Proposed changes to promote more basic literacy and numeracy lessons in English primary schools have been welcomed by most teachers' groups but some are concerned that it will lead to a narrow curriculum.

The plan is to cut back on time devoted to subjects such as music and history so that two hours a day can be spent on reading, writing and arithmetic.

The current National Curriculum already has 10 compulsory subjects which fill the timetable so without removing the requirement to teach all these subjects, the Government is reducing the number of topics that have to be covered.


[ image: From September children will get an hour each of literacy and numeracy lessons]
From September children will get an hour each of literacy and numeracy lessons
The Education Secretary David Blunkett said the Government was not scrapping anything, but giving teachers the flexibility to do their job and concentrate on teaching primary school children to read and write.

"The obligation will remain that there is a broad and balanced curriculum and the subjects that are on offer will continue to be. We will not scrap those aspects which I consider to be very important - history, creativity and imagination," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But in the end we can't really teach any of them if youngsters can't read and write," he said.

But some education experts are concerned about the amount of time the 'literacy hours' will take.


[ image: Chris Davis, of the Primary Headteachers' Association]
Chris Davis, of the Primary Headteachers' Association
Chris Davis, of the Primary Headteachers' Association, said: "I think head teachers and teachers are still worried about implementing the numeracy hour and the literacy hour.

"That is still going to put an enormous amount of pressure on primary schools. It's 40% of the working time - it's two days out of a working week."

History teachers have also raised fears that the Government's reforms would set back the quality of primary education.

Sue Bennett, a former primary history teacher and Government curriculum adviser who is also an executive member of the Historical Association, said there was no evidence that spending more time on literacy and numeracy raised standards.

"Countries in the Far East that do better than we do in maths don't necessarily spend longer in the classroom teaching it," she said.

"We all want to see standards of literacy improved, but narrowing the primary school curriculum doesn't necessarily achieve that.

"The danger is that without the present curriculum, teaching will become very patchy."

The changes are planned to coincide with the launch of the year of reading in September.


 





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