Cambridge Review on Primary Education in England

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him.  from ‘Devotions upon emergent occasions – meditation XV11 

John Donne 1839


Just how long have we been saying it … just what does it take to change institutional education? Today the BBC report on the interim report of the Cambridge Primary Review which, when it finally comes out, will be the biggest inquiry into primary education for 40 years. I wonder how it will sit alongside the Rose Review  and the Williams Review (the one on primary maths teaching)?

The report says that : Primary education ‘is deficient’ and … children in England are getting a “deficient” primary education because schools are focusing too much on maths, English and testing. Their right to a broad curriculum is being “needlessly compromised” and their lives “impoverished” by the “standards agenda”.

In truth this is what educationalists, practitioners, parents and children as well as international observers have been saying for some time. The Government, as one would expect, is in denial and claims that the report is: “insulting” to children and teachers.

The testing and ‘standards driven’ regime has forced teachers, largely against their will and better judgement, into closing down the exciting creative opportunities that early education should stand for. There are some schools where the first one and a half hours of each and every day is devoted to literacy , the next hour or more to maths and then (and I came across this only yesterday) more literacy on one afternoon per week. This particular example left four afternoons for everything else!

But what of the children (and the teachers who are trying their best to work their way through this mire of advice and research) … for then today is not a rehearsal for tomorrow, it is an entity in itself.

It is heartening that both the Rose Review and the Cambridge Review have their sites set on ‘domains’ rather than subjects. For Cambridge: The domains would be: arts and creativity; citizenship and ethics; faith and belief; language, oracy and literacy; mathematics; physical and emotional health; place and time (geography and history); science and technology. For Rose: there could be six broader “areas of learning”.

Interestingly these approaches parallel that of the International Baccalaureate PYP  and later the MYP in its programmes of international education designed to foster the development of the whole child as it follows its six transdisciplinary themes of global significance provide the framework for exploration and study:

  • who we are
  • where we are in place and time
  • how we express ourselves
  • how the world works
  • how we organize ourselves
  • sharing the planet

So what happens now … it would be wonderful if primary education could be driven by educational rather than political invectives following on from the reports and research to justify the stance.

2 thoughts on “Cambridge Review on Primary Education in England

  1. I agree with much of what you (and the Review) says. However, its view of ICT is narrow in my opinion, and that deters me from giving the Review my wholehearted support. Why are you strangely silent on the ICT aspects? 😉

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