Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Key messages for Mr Gove

Tuesday 16 April is the closing date for responses to the DfE consultation on the proposed reform of the National Curriculum.

If you are planning to respond, go to:
Registration is easy and the response form provides plenty of opportunity for free comment.

Here are some of the key messages I hope the government will receive from the consultation.

  • The previous proposals for reform of the primary curriculum, abandoned by the present government in 2010, were better than these, because they involved genuine consultation with the profession so teachers generally felt they could be delivered and that they reflected the learning needs of children in this age range.
  • The current proposals are unlikely to help children in primary schools to learn how to learn mathematics in a meaningful way. They will not see mathematics as something they can make sense of, but mainly as a collection of rules and procedures to be learnt and memorised in isolation.
  • Children will not learn that mathematics is an enjoyable and relevant subject that can be learnt in a purposeful way. Using and applying mathematics is lost in the detail of the content, rather than given the prominence it warrants.
  • There is a huge mismatch between the stated aims and purposes of study of mathematics, which are good, and the statutory content, which seems obsessed with arithmetic processes. Genuine mathematical reasoning is largely ignored. 
  • Similar criticisms have been made of the proposals for other subject areas. The aims and purposes of study seem to have been written by a different group of people from those who wrote the statutory content.
  • The expectations for operations with fractions and other formal written calculations year by year are unrealistic and seem destined to promote failure by a greater number of children. This will increase the number of people who think they cannot do mathematics and dislike the subject.
  • Some calculation requirements (particularly those for long division) are quite irrelevant in today's technological world, in which knowing what calculation to do and how to interpret the result are more important than being able to do a complex calculation.
  • The emphasis on arithmetic processes is based on a false premise that these are somehow what mathematics is really all about. Mathematics is not mainly about learning how to do calculations, but this is the underlying message of this curriculum proposal.
  • The phrase 'efficient method' for doing a calculation is not defined and its use to refer to traditional formats for subtraction by decomposition, long multiplication and long division is open to challenge.

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