Proposed changes to the Primary National Curriculum

Changes to the primary national curriculum and level descriptors are proposed for 2014. Do you know what they are and how they will impact on our education system?
Huge changes are afoot for our primary schools, with a revision of the national curriculum proposed for September 2014.

It may seem a long way off but in September 2014 the Government are proposing changes to the Primary National Curriculum.

The plans focus on changes to the maths curriculum with a stronger focus on arithmetic and times tables. The aim being that all children will know their tables to twelve by the time they are nine (thats two years early than at present).

In English there will be a stronger focus on grammar and children will be expected to be able to recite poetry.

The lives of famous scientist such as Sir Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin will be studied in Science along with an increased focus on practical scientific experiments, demonstrations and additional content.

From the age of seven learning a foreign language will become compulsory.

The biggest change will be to the way pupils are assessed with the current Level descriptors being removed. This will have a far reaching impact across our whole education system. At present pupils are expected to achieve Level 4 by the time they leave primary school. The percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 and above is used in the current league table system and by OFSTED when they assess pupil progress. Grading is also used in the secondary system and pupil scores are passed on with them to their secondary schools. Under the proposals there would be a whole new system in place for measuring and grading pupil attainment and associated league tables in time for the tests of Spring 2015.

So what does this really mean?

The changes to the curriculum will make it more demanding, but how different is the content to what is currently taught in schools? Many schools already teach a modern foreign language to pupils and there has been a huge focus on grammar and phonics over the past few years. Mental arithmetic skills have been developed and children are taught to understand mathematical concepts from the early years.

However, the curriculum once again faces the possibility of being highly prescriptive and lacking in creativity and flexibility. A curriculum which doesn’t necessarily allow for teachers to use their skills to determine the pace of learning for children in their care.

Interestingly academy schools don’t have to follow the national curriculum. Whilst they are actively encouraged to by local authorities, it is not an obligatory requirement. Perhaps we will see more free schools and primary academies developing as proposals are pushed through.

Many will see the changes to the way in which children are assessed as a welcome release - will the removal of the level descriptors finally see and end of the SATs tests? Or will this simply be replaced by another system which forces schools to teach to the tests in order to be deemed as successful?

What are you thoughts on the proposed changes? Will it make a real difference to our education system? Will we see pupil achievement increasing? Or will it simply create a sense of frustration among the teaching profession?

Also how do you see these changes impacting across the whole education system? Is it possible to change the content of the curriculum and the assessment methods at primary level, whilst leaving the secondary curriculum alone? Or does this herald the onset of a changing secondary curriculum too?

As always, your thoughts are appreciated.
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