FIVE-to-14-year-olds will be required to learn more ‘hard facts’ under the new National Curriculum announced by prime minister Cameron and Education Secretary Gove yesterday.
The new curriculum, which the coalition is demanding that state schools must have in place by September next year, was condemned as ‘far too narrow’ and ‘certain to lead to confusion and chaos’ by teachers’ unions.
But Cameron said it was ‘vital’ for the country’s ‘economic prosperity’, adding that ‘this is a curriculum that is rigorous, engaging and tough’, while Gove said the changes to the curriculum were necessary to keep pace with other countries.
Under it, there will be a requirement for pupils to learn their 12 times table by the age of nine, fractions, such as half or quarter, will be taught to five year olds.
By the age of 10, children will be expected to be able to spell words such as ‘accommodate’ and ‘rhythm’, while pupils aged five to seven will be expected to ‘understand what algorithms are’ and to ‘create and debug simple programmes’.
By 11, pupils will have to ‘design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems’.
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘This is a curriculum written by government advisers and officials, not teachers.
‘The price we risk paying is much greater pupil disaffection from learning as children are faced with content that is not age appropriate and does not take into account individual learning styles.’
He continued: ‘Not enough effort has been made to design a curriculum for lower attaining children or children with special educational needs.
‘Teachers have concerns about whether this curriculum is right for children with SEN, who form 20 per cent of the student population, and should not be an afterthought.
‘The timescale for implementation is ridiculously short. In less than a year teachers will be expected to implement a curriculum that they have had no say in.
‘This will almost certainly lead to confusion and chaos and comes on top of reforms to GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications.’
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘The national framework document published today fails to reflect any of the serious concerns that were raised across all subjects from employers, academics, parents’ groups and teachers.
‘It remains far too narrow, and has none of the breadth and balance that experts were demanding.’
She added: ‘The timetable for implementation is dangerously and recklessly short and will leave schools facing potential chaos which could be hugely detrimental to the life chances of a generation of children and young people.’
Mary Bousted, leader of the ATL accused the government of ‘a fundamental lack of understanding of how much planning is needed to bring in a totally new curriculum and new exams for children in all age groups at the same time.’
However, Shadow Education Secretary Twigg said: ‘It’s right that changes have been made to ICT and computing following concerns raised by Labour and the ICT sector, but we await further details.
‘Labour wants to ensure the national curriculum sets clear expectations for the knowledge and skills children and young people should reach by a certain age.’