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Education secretary Gillian Shephard today launched the revised national curriculum two months early. ...
Education secretary Gillian Shephard today launched the revised national curriculum two months early.

The slimmed down version does not compromise standards but means schools will be able to teach the curriculum in less time.

'We promised schools the revised national curriculum next January. Proof copies of the curriculum documents are already on their way to schools. I am sure two months' extra planning time will be very welcome to teachers.

'Early publication has been made possible by the hard work of Sir Ron Dearing's team at the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the great help of teachers and others during the consultation process.

'The National Curriculum offers every child, regardless of where they live or their background, a minimum entitlement to education.

'It is already raising standards by setting clear targets and testing performance. Our revision will continue the drive to raise standards by removing overload, stripping out unnecessary bureaucracy and giving more freedom for teachers to exercise professional judgement.

'We have taken action to:

- Make further reductions in the curriculum content for 7-11 year olds without reducing the emphasis on English and mathematics;

- Reduce the amount of detailed prescription still further, for example, by replacing the draft lists of required twentieth century authors with criteria about quality and established critical reputations;

- Confirm that 1,000 individual learning targets are cut to 200 broad descriptions of the standards expected of pupils of different ages;

- Confirm that teacher assessment and national test results are complementary and will be given equal weight in all forms of public reporting.

'These changes mean that schools should now typically be able to teach the statutory curriculum in about 80% of the teaching week for 5-14 year olds and in 60% of the teaching week for 14-16 year olds. But there has been no compromise on standards in slimming down the curriculum.

'In English we have increased demand and rigour with: more emphasis on grammar, spelling and punctuation, particularly in the primary years; more emphasis on the need for pupils to be taught written and spoken standard English; more emphasis on high quality literature and, proper attention to correct English across the curriculum for the first time.

'In mathematics there is more emphasis on arithmetic, again particularly in the primary years. In addition, the use of calculators by 5-7 year olds has been restricted to the more complex calculations, and it is made clear that calculators cannot be a substitute for arithmetic skills.

'In history the targets for attainment now put more emphasis on pupils' ability to recall and deploy knowledge, facts and understanding.

'There is strong emphasis on British history: a specific reference to British history has been added for 5-7 year olds, and of the eight core historical periods which 7-14 year olds will study, six focus on British history and a seventh on the twentieth century including Britain's part in both world wars.

'In physical education we have confirmed the proposal that 14-16 year olds should be required for the first time to play a competitive team or individual game. We have also strengthened the position of competitive team games for the younger age groups.

'This is a national curriculum which will serve well the interests of our children, our schools and the nation. It will continue the drive to raise standards, while at the same time giving teachers more professional freedom. I intend that it should take us into the next century without further major change.'

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