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Primary Curriculum Update 2010

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Update on the Primary Curriculum - June 2010

Update 21.06.10 - A video about the Primary Curriculum situation is available to view on the Teachers TV website.

Update 08.06.10 - Important information from the Department for Education regarding the primary curriculum and KS3 level descriptions.

You have probably heard by now that although the Children, Schools and Families 2010 Bill has received Assent and passed into law, there are some aspects of it such as the Reform of the Primary Curriculum (following the Rose Review) which have been omitted as it was impossible to reach agreement ahead of the General Election.

The new Government has now officially announced that they do not intend to proceed with the new curriculum, proposed under the leadership of Sir Jim Rose.

However, there is nothing to stop schools following the kinds of structures and integrated teaching approaches it advocates as the current statutory document, Curriculum 2000, offers ample scope for teachers and schools to deliver the prescribed content in ways that suit them and their pupils' needs. See the detailed Q&A section below for more information about the current curriculum context.

Current advice from Ofsted (2010) for schools wishing to develop their curriculum includes these recommendations:

All schools should:

  • In curriculum planning, balance opportunities for creative ways of learning with secure coverage of National Curriculum subjects and skills
  • Provide continuing professional development to ensure that teachers and support staff have the knowledge, skills and confidence to encourage pupils to be independent and creative learners, and to monitor and assess the effectiveness with which they develop these capabilities

Further information is available in the Ofsted document Learning: creative approaches that raise standards.

Update (17.05.10) BBC analysis article 'Can schools be free and accountable' - includes discussion on changes to the primary curriculum

Questions and Answers

Q. Why didn't some aspects of the Children, Schools and Families Bill make it into Law?

Q So what aspects of the Bill were lost?

Q. We've already received our set of new curriculum documents - should we now throw these away?

Q. The QCDA site still has the new primary curriculum and planning guidance on its site - should I ignore this?

Q. What is the statutory requirement for us now when planning a curriculum? What do we have to do?

Q. What about assessment requirements? Aren't there some new Level Descriptions? 

Q. Where can I find out more about what other schools are doing about curriculum development?


Q. Why didn't some aspects of the Children, Schools and Families Bill make it into Law?

A. The Bill had several amendments tabled by the House of Lords and was due to go back to the House of Commons for revision and more discussion. However, before a General Election there is a period of 'Purdah' which means that any Bills in progress have to be suspended and cannot receive Royal Assent. In order to avoid losing the Bill completely, several contested areas were omitted so that the Government could gain consensus with the opposition parties and ensure the Bill was passed before this period took effect.

Further information about Election Purdah is available from the House of Commons Library. 

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Q So what aspects of the Bill were lost?

A. A full summary of the key provisions of the Bill that were passed as well as those that were left out can be found on the DCSF website. Some of the key, omitted provisions are:

  • A reform of the primary curriculum following the Review by Sir Jim Rose.
  • The Introduction of compulsory Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education - the PSHE provisions ensure that all children receive at least one year of compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) by making PSHE compulsory, and lowering the age at which parents can withdraw their children from PSHE from 19 to 15 years old.
  • The new Licence to Practice for teachers - this licence, accompanied by a contractual entitlement to continuing professional development, will establish the professional standing of the workforce and provide teachers with the status they deserve.

You can read the final Act on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

These articles by the Guardian and the TES are also useful. 

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Q. We've already received our set of new curriculum documents - should we now throw these away?

A. Although these are no longer statutory documents, they do contain a wealth of stimulating ideas as to how a curriculum might be organised, drawing on subject rigour and local contexts to provide creative, challenging learning experiences. The documents may well prove very useful to promote and support curriculum development in your school.

It's worth remembering when you read them that the proposed Areas of Learning are not intended to be isolated silos of learning. For example, the proposed curriculum documents allow you to teach geography as a stand-alone subject, with the other subjects (History and Citizenship) in this Area of Learning or across Areas of Learning, such as making links with Science or Art. The conceptual framework of the proposed curriculum reflects the current 'freedoms' available in Curriculum 2000.

The 'Rose' Curriculum also contained aspects such as Literacy, Numeracy, ICT and Personal Development underpinning learning. These are aspects that lend themselves naturally to high quality geography teaching and learning and ones that you would probably want to link to anyway. 

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Q. The QCDA site still has the new primary curriculum and planning guidance on its site - should I ignore this?

A. The QCDA site contains useful materials to support both the current statutory Curriculum 2000 and the proposed new primary curriculum. It's well worth browsing and deciding what kind of information and advice is most useful to you. We would advise using your professional judgement to decide what materials support the approach you are taking in your school's personalised curriculum. 

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Q. What is the statutory requirement for us now when planning a curriculum? What do we have to do?

A. Until the time that a new law is passed, the National Curriculum (2000) is the statutory document that sets out what should be taught but it is up to teachers and schools to decide how. There are also lots of other 'freedoms' to decide what content is used. See this extract from Excellence and Enjoyment (2003).

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Q. What about assessment requirements? Aren't there some new Level Descriptions?

A. As part of the curriculum reform, the existing Levels of Attainment were revised and updated, often, as in the case of Geography, with very little change. There were however, more major changes made to ICT to reflect technological advancements and a new set of Attainment Targets was written for Citizenship as it was to become statutory.

These new Levels of Attainment are available on the QCDA website as well as in the proposed curriculum documents. Although, like the proposed curriculum they have not been passed into law, they offer a useful update to the existing levels in National Curriculum 2000.

For foundation subjects, the National Curriculum states that these should be used to guide teachers as a 'best fit' for their pupils' attainment at the end of a key stage, rather than being used for definitive judgements for individual pieces of work. Neither should they be divided up into hierarchical sub-levels.

What levels do provide is a framework for planning progression and ensuring that work planned offers opportunities for high achievement. You can find out more about using levels and assessment for learning in our Primary Subject Leadership CPD course. 

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Q. Where can I find out more about what other schools are doing about curriculum development?

A. Read this recent report from OFSTED (2010) about schools that have a curriculum rated as good or outstanding.

Why not join the DCSF sponsored Geography Champions Network (Ning) where you can engage in professional discussions with more than 700 teachers and professionals working in primary education and access some of the latest free events and resources on offer.

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GA support for all

The GA has a range of free online CPD Courses that demonstrate how geography can be developed as both a stand-alone and integrated subject within a personalised curriculum.

Schools that are developing a creative approach to teaching and learning can gain useful ideas that link to continuing agendas such as Sustainability, Social Cohesion and the Global Dimension; support subject leaders in whole school development; and demonstrate how to make connections across the curriculum, such as to Literacy and ICT.

The geographical subject knowledge in these units remains enduring and is relevant to both the content of Curriculum 2000 and the 'Rose' curriculum.

Further updates on the primary curriculum are currently being added to the Primary Geography Champions Ning.

GA support for members

Primary Geography is the GA's primary journal, produced three times a year. The Summer 2010 issue was devoted to curriculum development and the implications of curriculum reform. Additional online guidance and planning documents are also available.

Annual GA membership starts from just £29.50 and gives you access to past issues and practical teaching ideas going back to 2004. Join online today or by calling 0114 296 0088.

Paula Owens, GA Primary Curriculum Development Leader and Helen Martin, Chair GA Early Years & Primary Phase Committee
April 2010

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