ATL are working on behalf of other teacher unions to present a combined response to the DfE regarding consultation on changes to the Primary Curriculum. As has happened  previously, they would like to add academics’ signatures, children’s authors and curriculum organisations.

They have drawn up a letter and would appreciate your signature. Please contact Louisa Thomson lthomson@atl.org.uk as soon as possible if you would like to add your signature to the following statement;


April 2013


This joint statement has been agreed by a group of academics, teachers’ unions, professional associations and children’s authors with expertise in primary education.


We agree that all pupils must be given every opportunity to succeed, and that there was a need to look afresh at the current National Curriculum in order to slim down the content and allow greater scope for teacher autonomy.

However, we firmly believe that the proposed National Curriculum framework at primary school level will inhibit progress for large numbers of children and label others as failures, by placing unrealistic and inappropriate expectations of children at too early an age.  The prescriptive approach that is set out for the primary curriculum will not achieve the Government’s aim of raising standards.

We have serious concerns about the impact that these reforms could have on education in the future if they go ahead. The programmes of study lack relevance to the needs of primary-aged children in the 21st century, and will not adequately prepare them for the future.

The following are the common areas of concern for the signatories of this statement:

  • Aims: There has been inadequate discussion over the aims and underlying values of the National Curriculum. This should have happened prior to setting out individual programmes of study, to ensure that there was consensus in the profession and amongst stakeholders.
  • Breadth and balance should be at the heart of the primary curriculum.  We were promised a slimmer curriculum, but the proposals remain over-prescriptive, leaving little room for teacher or school flexibility.  The core subjects are over specified, including statutory spelling lists and details of arithmetic procedures, and are likely to constrain curriculum innovation in schools, with insufficient room for other valued areas of learning.
  • Learning and understanding – the current proposals favour ‘essential knowledge’ over concepts, skills and attitudes, and lead to a likely increase in rote learning, at the expense of understanding and critical thinking.
  • Relevance – the proposals do not take sufficient account of what is known about how children learn, or allow sufficiently for individual differences. Some of the programmes of study are not age appropriate, risking a sense of failure and disengagement amongst some pupils.
  • The assessment requirements should have been published at the same time as the National Curriculum draft framework – there is concern that these will be high stakes and target driven, further distorting the balance between core and foundation subjects.
  • Trust – Teachers must be trusted and allowed to use their professional judgement and experience to teach children.
  • Continuity and progression across the primary curriculum has not been thought through – in particular, the links between the Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, and the transition from primary to secondary.

We therefore call on the Government to:

  • Listen to teachers and academic experts – particularly as to what can realistically be expected of children at particular ages. If the pitch of the programmes of study are inappropriate, then there is a real risk of encouraging failure, which could have long term consequences in disengaging pupils from learning;
  • Delay the proposed statutory implementation of the new National Curriculum in September 2014, to give time for a complete rethink of the current  aims, values, and content of the programmes of study, in light of the many representations and responses made during the consultation period;
  • Allow for further debate on the content of the National Curriculum as proposals for assessment and accountability are developed;
  • Given the importance of achieving consensus and legitimacy over the aims of the National Curriculum, clear statements that promote positive attitudes to learning should be developed in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders;
  • Include a clear oracy strand within the English curriculum and reinstate drama as it plays a key role in enhancing children’s language skills and confidence;
  • Include a greater emphasis on mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving;
  • The History curriculum needs to be revised entirely to provide a more age appropriate introduction to the past in KS1 and 2, and moving away from the narrow focus on British history. The current draft risks putting children off History for life, omits a global dimension, and does not promote understanding of how to critically review the past;
  • Review the foundation subjects and cross curricular links to ensure that there is greater coherence and structure across the Curriculum as a whole, and more emphasis on concepts and skills, and pupils’ progression.

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