(From the Guardian)
Children will no longer have to study the Victorians or the second world war under proposals to overhaul the primary school curriculum, the Guardian has learned.
However, the draft plans will require children to master Twitter and Wikipedia and give teachers far more freedom to decide what youngsters should be concentrating on in classes.
The proposed curriculum, which would mark the biggest change to primary schooling in a decade, strips away hundreds of specifications about the scientific, geographical and historical knowledge pupils must accumulate before they are 11 to allow schools greater flexibility in what they teach.
It emphasises traditional areas of learning - including phonics, the chronology of history and mental arithmetic - but includes more modern media and web-based skills as well as a greater focus on environmental education.
The plans have been drawn up by Sir Jim Rose, the former Ofsted chief who was appointed by ministers to overhaul the primary school curriculum, and are due to be published next month.
The papers seen by the Guardian are draft plans for the detailed content of each of six core "learning areas" that Rose is proposing should replace the current 13 standalone subject areas.
The proposals would require:
• Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain "fluency" in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.
• Children to be able to place historical events within a chronology. "By the end of the primary phase, children should have gained an overview which enables them to place the periods, events and changes they have studied within a chronological framework, and to understand some of the links between them." Every child would learn two key periods of British history but it would be up to the school to decide which ones. Schools would still be able to opt to teach Victorian history or the second world war, but they would not be required to. The move is designed to prevent duplication with the secondary curriculum, which covers the second world war extensively.
• Less emphasis on the use of calculators than in the current curriculum.
• An understanding of physical development, health and wellbeing programme, which would address what Rose calls "deep societal concerns" about children's health, diet and physical activity, as well as their relationships with family and friends. They will be taught about peer pressure, how to deal with bullying and how to negotiate in their relationships.
The six core areas are: understanding English, communication and languages, mathematical understanding, scientific and technological understanding, human, social and environmental understanding, understanding physical health and wellbeing, and understanding arts and design.
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "It seems to jump on the latest trends such as Wikipedia and Twitter. Then it has very traditional descriptions of chronological teaching of history. It seems to be about trends on the one hand, then political pressure on the other hand - the government didn't want to look like it is scrapping traditional education. Computer skills and keyboard skills seem to be as important as handwriting in this. Traditional books and written texts are downplayed in response to web-based learning."
Teresa Cremin, president of the United Kingdom Literacy Association, said: "We are very pleased to see a higher profile given to oracy but we are concerned that there seems to be no drama in the upper primary years linked to literacy. But our main concern is that there is no emphasis on reading for pleasure or the enjoyment of literacy."
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "They are much more sensible programmes of study. We are pleased they give the profession much more flexibility to meet the needs of their pupils. Children need to be enthused by learning, so they want to learn and gain the skills which will enable them to learn in later life. The debate is not about whether the Victorians are in there or not."
The leak led to a row when it emerged unions had been excluded from the consultation about what should be included, and subject specialists were given only three days to respond. Bousted said: "It's entirely unacceptable that it hasn't come to the teaching unions. Our members have to teach this. We've responded at all other stages of consultation. I don't know why we have been missed out now."
The Department for Children, Schools and Families, which initially refused to comment on the leaked report, issued a statement last night setting out its "general position" on history in primary schools. "Of course pupils in primary school will learn about major periods including the Romans, the Tudors and the Victorians and will be taught to understand a broad chronology of major events in this country and the wider world," it said.