The Guardian have just published a list of things that teachers would like to be removed from the curriculum. They didn’t have any primary representation so they emailed me and ask for comment. Below is what I sent, which they decided not to use as it doesn’t really give a specific ‘unit’. But since I wrote it I thought I might as well share it here.
Despite complaints of meddling from above, primary teachers in the UK still enjoy a considerable amount of freedom in what they teach and how they teach it.
The expected standards of primary children, however, rose dramatically under the Coalition’s term of office, and this ratcheting up looks set to continue under the current government. This means that the old idea of ‘in primary we teach children, not subjects’, is becoming increasingly untenable.
Despite moving to a more ‘mastery’ based approach to subjects, there is still far too much to cover in these early years of schooling. Specifically what primary teachers would like removed would largely be based on their own comfort zones. Polymaths aside, it’s not possible to be a fountain of knowledge in every subject. This leads to the uncomfortable feeling of knowing that you are have only a superficial understanding of the content that you are delivering.
Personally, I’d remove modern foreign languages from the primary curriculum. There is a huge opportunity cost in devoting hundreds of hours to get children to a level that they would reach within the first few weeks of secondary school. And the expectation that all primary teachers become conversational speakers in a second language is entirely unreasonable.
Ultimately, if we want to know what should be cut from primary, we should probably open better dialogue channels with secondary. This would help us understand what they think is a waste of time based on where the children need to end up by the time they leave compulsory education