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BLUNKETT STRENGTHENS CURRICULUM FOCUS ON THE BASICS

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Education and employment secretary David Blunkett said that he will be ensuring that the basics of literacy and num...
Education and employment secretary David Blunkett said that he will be ensuring that the basics of literacy and numeracy have top priority within primary schools.

Schools will continue to offer a broad and balanced curriculum. They will be expected to prioritise a minimum of an hour a day each for literacy and numeracy. The curriculum requirements for science, IT and religious education will remain unchanged, but there will be greater flexibility in other non-core subjects.

Mr Blunkett said yesterday:

'This government regards literacy and numeracy as fundamental to education and life. That is why we have set such challenging literacy and numeracy targets. It is also why we have introduced a series of measures to drive up standards in the basics. That is why we shall be spending an extra£59m during the National Year of Reading from September 1998 - and we will shortly be consulting on the report of the numeracy task force.

'For too long, too many primary school teachers have been prevented from giving literacy and numeracy the attention they deserve because the National Curriculum has lacked the very clear focus on the basics which is crucial in primary education. As a result literacy and numeracy have been too often subsumed into other subjects. It is no surprise that so many pupils leave primary school ill-equipped in the 3Rs.

'I have listened very carefully to what parents and teachers have been telling us. In our recent consultation on the Excellence in Schools White Paper, there was a very clear view that more time was needed for the basics. That is why I have decided to take action now: to ensure that the argument that there is not enough time for reading, writing and arithmetic can no longer be made.

'I have therefore decided that, from September 1998, primary schools will have more time to concentrate on the essential basic skills embodied within a core curriculum consisting of English, mathematics,

science and information technology, while protecting the existing position of religious education. This will allow every school the chance to spend at least an hour a day on both literacy and numeracy.

'Children should still have knowledge and understanding of our history and culture, of the world around them, of the skills and personal qualities they will need in their jobs and in adult life if they are to become good and active citizens in the twenty-first century. The development of a child's creativity and imagination is an essential part of a balanced education. Schools will therefore still have a statutory duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and they will be required to have regard to the non-core National Curriculum subjects for which the detailed statutory requirements have been lifted.

'It means that primary schools will however not be required to follow the current prescribed programmes of study in the six non-core National Curriculum subjects of design and technology, history, geography, music, art and physical education. They will however specifically be expected to find a place for these subjects in their curriculum and will have more opportunity to offer tasters in other subjects, including modern languages, if they wish.'

'The essential differences will be the new flexibility with which schools will be able to approach the six subjects. The QCA will provide guidance to schools later this term. School inspections will reflect this change from September 1998, as the chief inspector, Chris Woodhead has confirmed today. Where inspectors observe lessons in other subjects, they will of course continue to evaluate the quality of teaching, delivery and understanding.

'This is a key step towards a better focused National Curriculum for all schools from September 2000. All teachers, as well as governors,

parents, employers and other stakeholders in the educational process, will have their part to play in the consultation to be conducted by

the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

'In short, we have listened to parents and teachers. And now we are taking action. These decisions will enable schools to meet our targets for literacy and numeracy and give children the very best start in primary schools as we approach the millennium.'

NOTES

1. For two years from September 1998 the statutory core curriculum subjects for all 5-11 year olds in maintained schools will be English, maths, science, IT, and RE. Schools will be required to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum and to have regard to the remaining non-core subjects. The detailed statutory requirements of six non-core subjects will be lifted.

2. QCA have today written to all primary schools explaining the practical implications in more detail. The QCA will be issuing further guidance to schools later this term. The QCA will be also undertaking a formal consultation on these proposals, in line with statutory requirements, this term.

3. This decision is the first step in QCA's longer term review of the National Curriculum for the year 2000. On the basis of extensive consultation with teachers, governors, parents, employers and others,

a revised National Curriculum will be made available to all schools in September 1999. They will then have a whole school year to prepare for it before having to implement it in classrooms from September 2000.

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