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Academics criticise Gove over new curriculum

21/03/2013 Joanna
A large group of education experts have lambasted proposed curricular reforms, which they warn will not help primary and secondary teachers to raise educational standards.

Education secretary Michael Gove's new curriculum, which is under consultation until mid-April, advocates that children be taught standard English with more emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar.

In maths, they will have to know their times tables up to 12 by the age of nine and start learning about algebra and geometry before leaving primary school.

Moreover, in history, pupils will be required to learn about "how the British people shaped this nation and how Britain influenced the world", while they will also start to learn a language, either ancient or modern, by the age of seven.

These controversial proposals have prompted 105 education academics to write a letter to the Independent, in which they stated that the new curriculum's "endless lists of spellings, facts and rules" will reduce pupils' capacity for "problem-solving, critical understanding and creativity".

According to the signatories, the reforms "demand too much too young" and will therefore force teachers to rely too much on "rote learning", while little account will be given to children's own potential interests and abilities.

Furthermore, they warned that the curriculum will be too narrow, as the large quantities of detail pupils need to learn for maths, English and science leaves little scope for other learning.

Professor Terry Wrigley of Leeds Metropolitan University, who coordinated the letter with Professor Michael Bassey of Nottingham Trent, explained: "A system which is very, very heavily prescribed and which encourages cramming through tests actually reduces fairly sharply the development of thinking.

"The pupils memorise just enough detail to get over the hurdle of the tests."

The letter also claimed that the large amount of detail contained in the new curriculum demonstrates the government's lack of trust in those in teaching jobs and predicted that, whatever the intentions behind these reforms, they will ultimately dumb down teaching and learning.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department for Education accused the signatories of drawing a "false dichotomy" between skills and knowledge, adding that schools would be given greater freedom over their curriculum rather than less.

Posted by Harriet McGowanADNFCR-2164-ID-801559949-ADNFCR
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