What the resource is:
The DCSF requested that Sir Jim Rose carry out an independent review of the primary curriculum in January of 2008. An interim report was issued in December 2008 and this is the final report.
This commentary is our first attempt to engage with the document and we will publish a more considered review in due course.
The report focuses on curriculum design and content;
- Reading, writing, numeracy and information communication technology (ICT);
- Personal development;
- Transition and progression, including issues around summer-born children; and
- Introducing languages at Key Stage 2.
The aims of the resource:
The final report builds on the interim report and seeks to address two questions:
- What should the primary curriculum contain?
- How should the content and the teaching of it change to foster children's different and developing abilities during primary education?
The review is about the curriculum rather than the whole of primary education which has been the remit of the Cambridge Review of Primary Education.
Key findings or focus:
The key features of the primary curriculum put forward by this review are:
- Recognising the continuing importance of subjects and the essential knowledge, skills and understanding they represent
- Providing a stronger focus on curriculum progression
- Strengthening the focus on ensuring, that by the age of seven, children have a secure grasp of the literacy and numeracy skills they need to make good progress thereafter
- Strengthening the teaching and learning of ICT to enable them to be independent and confident users of technology by the end of primary education
- Providing a greater emphasis on personal development through a more integrated and simpler framework for schools
- Building stronger links between the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, and between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. in offering exciting opportunities for learning languages for 7-11 year olds
The report emphasises the need to teach basic literacy in the context of subjects and that cross curricular teaching is a key means of engaging with subjects.
It is argued that this approach "respects the integrity of subjects but lessens the rigidity of their boundaries", and that it encourages children and teachers to think creatively ‘outside subject boxes' (p16).
A central requirement of the review is to reduce the prescription and overload of the current programmes of study, so that schools have greater flexibility to build on prior learning and meet individual needs.
With a wide range of primary reviews to choose from, the Rose notes that this report is the only one charged with providing detailed content recommendations so that "Difficult decisions have had to be taken" about what should constitute "essential knowledge, skills and understanding that all children aged 5-11 should be taught" as their entitlement, as opposed to what is "desirable" (p14):
"The curriculum that primary children are offered must enable them to enjoy this unique stage of childhood, inspire learning and develop the essential knowledge, skills and understanding which are the building blocks for secondary education and later life" (p10).
.The review recommends that the primary curriculum is organised into the following six areas of learning:
- Understanding English, communication and languages
- Mathematical understanding
- Scientific and technological understanding
- Historical ('Human' in interim report), geographical and social understanding
- Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing
- Understanding the arts ('and design' dropped since interim report)
ICT is regarded as a core skill alongside literacy and numeracy. It is a means of enabling learning, but also as a set of essential skills for life. Requirements for ICT are set out in each area of learning where it directly contributes to knowledge, skills and understanding.
The report refers to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal development and mentions scaffolding (Bruner,1966) in passing:
"‘Good Teaching' deliberately deepens and widens children's understanding by firing their imagination and interest and paving the way to higher achievement through ‘scaffolding' learning in a community of learners. As envisaged by Vygotsky and other well-respected cognitive researchers, good teaching means that ‘what children can do with adult support today they can do unaided tomorrow'" (p54).
But what will need to be covered in more depth is the exact nature of that help by peer or adult and when best this can occur, as scaffolding may vary not just in amount but also form, e.g contingency managing, feedback, instructing, questioning and cognitive structuring (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). This might be at odds with the increased flexibility proposed, but might usefully inform the development of a conceptual framework for the proposed guidance on the use of ICT that will be undertaken by BECTA.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) will be holding a public consultation on the proposals set out in the report. The consultation will begin on 30 April and close on 23 July 2009. The feedback will be used by the Government to inform final decisions about the primary curriculum. The consultation can be accessed from www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource in relation to ITE:
This review of the primary curriculum followed the more wide ranging Cambridge Review of primary education undertaken by Robin Alexander that was financed by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The Rose Report was requested by the Secretary of State for the Department for Children, Schools and the Family, and has been widely discussed in the media. It is already highly influential.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact:
This report will have a wide ranging influence on primary ITT/ITE, and there will need to a significant amount of guidance and support to aid the planning for implementation. The DCSF and QCA are putting together a package to support this, beginning 2010, which is discussed in Chapter 8. This is an opportunity to enhance the professionalism of teaching through a renewed focus on curriculum development and evaluation.
The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance:
This will become a highly influential report that will have a high degree of impact on primary teaching. After all the sound bites and rumours, it is now available to be read in a positively critical manner to help trainees develop a vision of what primary teaching could and should be.
Bruner, J. (1966) Toward a Theory of Instruction. Harvard University Press
Tharp, R.G. & Gallimore, R. (1988) Rousing Minds to Life: Teaching, learning and schooling in social context. Cambridge University Press
Vygotsky, L.S. (1962) Thought and Language. MIT Press
Vygotsky,L.S. (1978) Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press
Mike BlamiresView the Primary Curriculum Report using 'Scribd'