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Teach children skills not facts, union says

11/04/2012 Kelly
A leading teaching union has said that teachers should not be focussed on making fact banks out of pupils when they can look up information instantly on their smartphones.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has said that a far greater emphasis should instead be placed upon wider skills, including research and analysis, critical thinking and interpretation.

At its annual conference in Manchester last week, inner-city teacher Jon Overton told delegates that there was no longer any need in this day and age to store vast banks of knowledge in our heads, because technology allows instant reference.

He argued that the Department for Education's (DfE) plans to reform the National Curriculum with a focus on 'core knowledge' would stifle creativity in classrooms and be a step backwards.

"What we need to equip our young people with are skills; interpersonal skills, enquiry skills, the ability to innovate," he said.

"That is what universities are saying is lacking, that is what employers say is lacking; transferrable skills that ultimately will make a difference in the life of a young person."

Education secretary Michael Gove has previously stated that too many young people are coming to the end of their education without essential knowledge.

The DfE have now convened an expert panel to carry out a review of the National Curriculum with a view to creating new syllabuses for core subjects by the start of the 2014 school year.

This could see pupils learning their tables by heart by the time they are nine-years-old, with quadratic equations introduced into mathematics lessons by the age of 13 rather than 14, the Telegraph reported.

English lessons may see closer attention paid to grammar as well as the introduction of more diverse and challenging reading lists including the classics.

However, Mr Overton said that harking back to the 1950s was dangerous and unnecessary and could risk damaging children's ability to think independently.

Figures from the DfE have revealed that many pupils are missing out on the chance to study core GCSE subjects, with 137 schools not entering pupils for geography GCSE and 219 schools denying children the chance to take French GCSE.

Posted by Tim ColmanADNFCR-2164-ID-801337126-ADNFCR
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