02 May 2009

Rose Review

The findings of the Sir Jim Rose's review of the Primary Curriculum were published on Thursday 30th April (source http://www.dcsf.gov.uk). This is the most fundamental review of the primary curriculum in a decade, and a series of recommendations to modernise it for 21st century pupils. Ed Balls had asked Sir Jim to propose a curriculum which would inspire life-long learning while reducing prescription and giving teachers greater flexibility.

He was asked to look particularly at how primary schools could develop children’s personal skills to help them achieve academically as well as how to smooth pupils’ path between early years and primary, and into secondary school.

For the first time ever the proposed curriculum will set out what children should learn in three phases – taking them seamlessly from the Early Years Foundation Stage to Key Stage 1, and from primary to secondary education. The three phases show explicitly how the curriculum broadens and deepens to reflect children’s different but developing abilities between the ages of five and 11.

Sir Jim recommends that summer-born children should start primary school in the September after their fourth birthday rather than wait until January - however this would be subject to discussions with parents, taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class. In some cases children might start school part-time. To give parents choice and flexibility, the Government is today committing, from 2011, to funding both the cost of all children starting school in the September after their fourth birthday, and the full-time costs (up to 25hrs per week) of those children whose parents would prefer them to be in private or voluntary early years provision.

Sir Jim’s recommendations also include:
  • literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development should form the new core of the primary curriculum;
  • that the primary curriculum be organised into six new areas of learning, so children can benefit from high quality subject teaching and cross curricular studies;
  • schools should teach one or two foreign languages, being free to choose which, but focusing on those taught at Key Stage 3;
  • that teachers receive additional support to help them teach ICT;
  • a new focus on spoken communication, making particular use of the performing and visual arts, especially role play and drama;
  • that year six and seven pupils undertake extended study projects to help smooth their transition into secondary school;
  • that parents be given a guide to the curriculum, so they can better understand what their children are learning at school;
  • teachers to have new advice about how to stimulate play based learning, which would be passed on to parents
  • the introduction of an extra training day for primary schools in 2010 so they can understand and start planning for the new primary curriculum;
  • smoothing the transition from early years to primary by extending and building upon active, play-based learning, particularly for ‘summer-born’ children and those still working towards the early learning goals;
  • that the two Early Learning goals from the Early Years Foundation Stage he was asked to review be retained.
However, he has suggested that the DCSF should offer additional guidance for early years teachers on how to support young children’s emerging writing skills, including examples of how these two goals are being achieved by many children.

Sir Jim Rose 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."

“My recommended areas of learning will not ‘abolish’ subjects, such as history or geography. 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.”
With regard to the early learning goals, Sir Jim Rose said:

“Large numbers of children are already achieving these early writing goals so I fail to see why we would want to put a ceiling on them and stop children in their tracks. There are other areas of learning, such as problem solving and creativity, where similar proportions of children are already achieving them, but we have not seen a call for these to be scrapped. The goals are aspirations that teachers encourage children to move towards in a supportive way, they are not hoops to jump through.”

As part of his Review Sir Jim consulted with teachers, parents and subject associations, as well as visiting over 50 schools. Almost 2,000 head teachers and local authority advisers attended nine regional events held on behalf of the Review by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Children’s Secretary Ed Balls today thanked Sir Jim for the comprehensive nature of his review and accepted every recommendation.

Ed Balls said:

“Many of our primary schools are already doing an excellent job in driving up standards in the three Rs, work which we want to build on. The new primary curriculum will slim down the existing compulsory National Curriculum subjects into six new areas of learning that ensure that all children learn core subjects like history and geography but also about their personal development."

“It’s a complete nonsense to suggest that it’s an either-or choice between learning history and geography on the one hand; and learning about personal skills and well being on the other. Children should learn both because that is the best way to raise standards for all."

“Sir Jim’s review will give primary heads and teachers more freedom to decide what to teach and how so children enjoy learning and make good progress. Children must be secure in English and maths and have good communication skills and learn these essential life skills if they’re going to succeed and that is central to the Rose recommendations."

"I believe that Sir Jim’s new curriculum will set a new standard in primary education in this country, which is central to us achieving the ambitions we set out in the Children’s Plan.”

Research being published this week shows that 97 per cent of parents think that reading and writing are the most important skills for their children to learn at primary school. But 55 per cent think that children should also learn life skills at primary school such as effective communication, teamwork and creative thinking.

The new curriculum has been reorganised into six areas of learning. These are:
  • understanding English, communication and languages;
  • mathematical understanding;
  • understanding the arts;
  • historical, geographical and social understanding;
  • understanding physical development, health and wellbeing; and
  • scientific and technological understanding.
The areas of learning will continue to incorporate traditional subjects - such as English, mathematics, science, history and geography for example - but will also contain more provision for ICT, personal development and health and wellbeing and include essential skills for learning and life. Children will learn how information and valid evidence underpin ideas and practice in science and technology through a greater emphasis on practical and exploratory skills and evaluation. Children will also explore the contribution of historically significant scientists. The range of learning will allow for more cross-curriculum activities and give teachers more opportunities to provide interactive and practical lessons which allow children to also develop maths skills, such as measurement and data handling, in science lessons. The range of learning will allow for more cross-curriculum activities and give teachers more opportunities to provide interactive and practical lessons.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families also issued research showing 97 per cent of parents think that reading and writing are the most important skills for their children to learn at primary. The majority of parents (55 per cent) also want their children to learn life skills such as communication, teamwork and creative thinking. The research showed that parents currently have a low understanding about the curriculum itself, but when questioned they support a broad and balanced curriculum. To help parents, Ed Balls said he wanted the parents’ guide to the curriculum, also published today, to be the start of a conversation with parents and pledged to involve parents more as the consultation on the detailed programmes of study progressed and they moved towards implementation in 2011.

A public consultation on the Rose Review recommended programmes of study and guidance will be led by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).QCA Acting Chief Executive Andrew Hall says: "I hope pupils, parents and teachers will all take advantage of the opportunity to offer their views in the consultation process. This will be a vital element in determining the success of the new curriculum, since the more people become involved, the more relevant and robust the final curriculum will be. "It is expected that the new curriculum will be implemented in 2011."

For more information about the Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum please see

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