I am assuming that everyone understands the title of this post and the snail …

I read with my usual disbelief an article in the Telegraph today called: Children must learn their times tables by age of nine . and found myself marveling at the clairvoyance of the journalist … best wait until Monday (so Andrew Pollard says on Twitter) when I can read it from ‘the horse’s mouth’.  Andrew Pollard was one of four in an Expert Panel advising the English government on a Review of the National Curriculum. Love the bit in the article :The Daily Telegraph has learnt.!

In the meantime …

I taught in primary schools for more than 30 years and in all of that time I cannot remember a moment when either myself or my colleagues did not spend a good deal of time working towards such an end. There were games, practices, recitations, chants, homeworks, tests and even a ‘tables’ day when everyone in the school took part in a tables challenge. In this challenge the older ones, Y5s, pitted themselves against the ‘TON’ … this was a sheet with all of the conventional 100 facts mixed up ( Oh !! … just had a thought … they don’t mean up to 12 X 12 do they? No … surely not? ). The aim was to complete it all correct in less than 5 minutes. For the fastest there was a trophy … this was often won in less than 2 minutes … I can see her now shouting out ‘finished’. There was no thinking time here this was raw knowledge. But not necessarily understanding (though in her case I think there was).

During my life as an educationalist/teacher I have been involved with/edited/authored/checked  at least three maths schemes – one, Space Maths, still being produced as I write – and always there has been an emphasis on the fast recall of these ‘tables’ facts. I would love to see the evidence which informs me that this is not done universally in our schools and that, on the whole, children do learn them and are encouraged to recall them instantly.

However, the older generation, who were taught all of these things, may be the ones who struggle. Today on BBC TV a presenter when asked 6 X 7 certainly did not have instant recall – lack of practice, lack of purpose or bad teaching? Funny how she could not remember the universal answer !

The leaked ‘facts’ re the proposed new curriculum make almost amusing reading, here is just one: … the introduction of distinct lessons in grammar and more rigorous reading lists covering Homer, Sophocles and Shakespeare. I just love the idea that there are a group of people who think that reading Homer and Sophocles as a general thing is a useful way into generating a lifelong journey with and love of reading. Shakespeare, of course, is read and enjoyed in many primary schools. Just loving the idea that: Countries with “fast improving” education systems such as Poland have higher expectations in reading lists, including Homer, Sophocles and Shakespeare – I assume that each country goes back to the original so that translation does not become an issue – I have always wondered about Sophocles but have not returned to the original Greek to check.

And now comes the really fun bit:The conclusions of the review had been expected in the new year, but wholesale reform of the curriculum will now be delayed by 12 months . A final report by an expert panel is unlikely to be published until the end of 2012, with specifications in the core subjects to be introduced in 2014 rather than 2013.

So another three years, added to the current year, go by before the Government make up their mind what should happen to our institutional education system.

This strikes me as wonderful opportunity!

In April 2010 the iPad was released into our lives … that is 20 months ago … of course it has had little or no impact on the way we use technology nor on the way education sees the use of such powerful devices (irony). So the new curriculum will be developed now for three years hence – I wonder how future proof that will be or will it be ‘back to the future’. Of course, by then, most schools will be Academies, and will not have to follow it! Except that this might not be the case as I understand that the Minister can via annual funding letters, can tell free schools and academies what should be taught. So the only schools who will be forced to follow the newly developed curriculum are the few who have not trodden the Governments pathway towards independence.

And, I confess, do not understand this: … In another key development, pupils could be required to master key subject content before classes move on to the next stage — ensuring no child is left behind.

Does this mean that it is subject content that the new curriculum will be about? Does it mean that everyone in a class must master something or other before the class moves on? Or does it mean that a child/student will stay where they are until they ‘get it’? Isn’t this what used to happen in the US – perhaps it still does happen. Or perhaps this was just bad guessing and writing on the part of the Telegraph journalist.

My big hope is that in the ensuing time period between now and ‘then’ schools will work hard (as they always do) to develop a meaningful, progressive and creative curriculum to fit local, national and international needs. And then they will continue with it …

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