Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 15:59 UK

Computers enter learning 'core'

drama lesson
Drama is a superb way of enriching learning, Sir Jim says

Computer technology is to move centre stage alongside English, maths and personal skills in an overhaul of England's primary school curriculum.

These are the "essentials for learning and life" recommended by former school inspections director Sir Jim Rose.

Traditional subjects continue with more cross-curricular work in six themes, and a stress on speaking and listening.

From 2011 all children will be able to start school in the September after they turn four, the government says.

The change is part of an overhaul to smooth progression from early years through primary and into secondary school.

Sir Jim Rose
The touchstone of an excellent curriculum is that it instils in children a love of learning for its own sake
Sir Jim Rose

Sir Jim said: "The touchstone of an excellent curriculum is that it instils in children a love of learning for its own sake.

"From what I have seen on my visits, the best schools demonstrate that these priorities - literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development - are crucial for giving children their entitlement to a broad and balanced education."

Science is no longer a core subject, but he added: "In no way does that suggest we are stepping back from recognising the importance of science and technology."

Subjects stay

His final report advocates six broad areas of understanding:

  • English, communication and languages
  • mathematical
  • the arts
  • historical, geographical and social
  • physical development, health and wellbeing
  • scientific and technological

But it also complains that his interim proposals had been misreported as doing away with traditional subjects.

"My recommended areas of learning will not 'abolish' subjects, such as history or geography," he said.

"The essential content of these subjects must be taught well in order for children to be able to make links between them, which is what having the six new areas of learning will allow teachers to do."

Early starts

The recommendation that summer-born children should start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday, rather than wait until January, would be subject to discussions between parents and schools. They might attend part-time.


But the government says it is committing to fund, from 2011, the cost of children starting school or having up to 25 hours a week in private or voluntary early years establishments - if parents want it.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls denied it would put pressure on parents to make their children start school before they were ready.

"We aren't saying it's compulsory to start school in September, we are saying that all local authorities will have to give that option to parents," he said.

Of England's 150 local authorities, 94 already had a single start date - so at present parents did not have the option of their child starting later if they were not ready, he said.

The acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, said: "I welcome the fact that Sir Jim Rose has stepped back from his proposal that children can only enter reception classes on the first of September.

"Such a requirement would have led to very young children starting formal learning far too early."


The new focus on speaking and listening will make particular use of the performing and visual arts.

Teachers ... don't need another serving of vapid jargon from the quangocrats
Nick Gibb
Shadow schools minister

"The perception of primary schools visited by the review is that more children are entering primary schools with impoverished language and poor social development.

"The appeal to primary children of role play, and drama in its various forms, is often used very successfully to develop speaking and listening and leads to other worthy outcomes."

The general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, Chris Keates, said the national curriculum had been undermined for far too long by the "punitive" school accountability regime based on performance tables and Ofsted inspections.

Mr Balls would not be drawn on the future of the "Sats" tests in England's primary schools.

A report from an expert group on assessment - which includes Sir Jim Rose - is awaited.

Sir Jim told reporters: "You have got to get the curriculum right and then talk about assessment."

Shadow schools minister Nick Gibb said the review was a worrying step in the wrong direction, with confusing programmes of study.

"Teachers need a curriculum which helps them ensure that every child has a firm grasp of the basics and a good grounding in the general knowledge subjects.

"They don't need another serving of vapid jargon from the quangocrats who have presided over all our existing problems with education."

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