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Primary Curriculum Review

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 30 April 2009

As part of the Children’s Plan, we committed to a fundamental review of the primary curriculum, and I was delighted that Sir Jim Rose accepted my invitation to carry out this important work. The remit for the review was to consider how to:

Ensure that the primary curriculum builds on prior learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and supports transition to and children’s readiness for secondary school.

Increase flexibility and reduce prescription where possible to allow teachers more freedom to tailor the curriculum to their pupils’ interests, different and developing abilities and local circumstances to ensure that no child is left behind and to narrow achievement gaps.

Continue the focus on the crucial skills of literacy and numeracy, while recognising the increasing learning opportunities opened up by advances in technology in the last decade and children’s increasing ICT capabilities.

Give a greater emphasis to children’s personal development and well-being.

Balance these priorities with children’s entitlement to a broad and balanced primary curriculum which introduces them to the arts, sciences, humanities, physical education and sport and foreign languages as they progress through primary education.

In addition, I asked Sir Jim to consider how to improve outcomes for summer-born children, including considering when they should start school. During the review I asked Sir Jim to consider two of the EYFS early learning goals for writing as part of his wider review of improving transition from EYFS into primary Key Stage 1.

Sir Jim’s interim report was published on 8 December and has been subject to widespread consultation with teachers, parents, learned societies, subject experts and other professionals. He has now completed his final report, which I am publishing today along with proposals for a revised primary national curriculum. Hard copies are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. I am accepting all of his recommendations subject to public consultation.

Sir Jim has made a number of recommendations directly related to the design and content of the primary curriculum which will require legislation, which I have accepted subject to public consultation which I have asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to carry out from today. They will also consult on the proposals to make personal, social, health and economic education statutory that I announced on Monday 27 April.

Sir Jim proposes a new core of essential skills for learning and life focused on literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development and learning which is embedded across the whole curriculum. This will help ensure that all children leave school secure in the basics. Sir Jim’s recommendations also include restructuring the primary curriculum into six broad areas of learning, within which essential subject content will be organised and become more distinct as children progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2.

The areas of learning are:

understanding English, communication and languages;

mathematical understanding;

understanding the arts;

historical, geographical and social understanding;

understanding physical development, health and wellbeing;

scientific and technological understanding.

The draft programmes of learning for these areas set out the knowledge, skills and understanding which children should learn linked to the overall aims of helping children become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. The curriculum content is set out in three clear phases to help teachers plan for progression. Sir Jim also recommends that a foreign language should become compulsory for the first time from age 7, building on the recommendation of the languages review carried out by the late Lord Dearing.

A number of other significant recommendations do not require legislation and I plan to take them forward subject to the forthcoming consultation. These will support and promote the successful implementation of the new curriculum from September 2011. These include promoting what Sir Jim has already seen as excellent practice in some of our best primary schools relating to teaching reading and encouraging children’s spoken communication skills. He has also concluded that we should retain the two writing early learning goals as aspirational targets and that the Government should make available guidance and support to smooth children’s transition from the EYFS to primary school, including supporting those children still working towards these goals.

Other recommendations relate to helping schools plan for implementing the new curriculum, such as the Government supporting teachers’ professional development needs to deliver our increased expectations around ICT. Given the fundamental nature of the changes and the important contribution that I expect the new curriculum to make to children’s attainment and well-being, I have agreed that primary schools should be permitted an additional training day in 2010 to give every school the time and opportunity to plan for the new curriculum from September 2011. A full set of Sir Jim’s recommendations and my response is set out in the annex to this statement.

On the question of when summer-born children should start school, I have accepted Sir Jim’s recommendation that children should ideally start school in the September immediately following their fourth birthday, possibly on a part-time basis for some children, but with parents having freedom to choose. He has taken account of the compelling evidence on the benefits to summer-born children from starting school at the same time as their peers and that the majority of local authority areas already operate a single point of primary school entry in September. Young disabled children and children with SEN in particular will benefit from starting school as soon as possible so that the right interventions are put in place to ensure that these children also make progress alongside their fellow pupils. I am mindful however, that compulsory school age does not start until the term after a child turns five and that some parents have a strong preference for their child’s early years experience to take place outside a school setting. I therefore intend to make funding available across the maintained, private and voluntary sectors to enable all children to receive full time provision in education and childcare from the September after their fourth birthday. Alongside making that provision available, we will ensure that parents have clear information about the benefits of beginning reception in September and we will work to help schools and early years settings to smooth the transition for any children who move into reception after September.

I am enormously grateful to Sir Jim for the rigorous, inclusive and evidence-based way in which he has undertaken this major review. He has consulted widely with subject experts, learned societies, teachers and other professionals, and his review is informed by excellent practice in our best schools and internationally. Throughout the review he has kept in the forefront of his thinking the interests of children and their parents. I am confident that his work will make a huge difference to millions of young people, helping to ensure their primary years equip them with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to thrive in their future education and later lives.

Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum: Key Recommendations and Government Response

Area of Remit

Rose Recommendation

Government Response

Curriculum review

Recommendation 1: A National Curriculum should be retained as a statutory entitlement for all children.


Recommendation 2: Consideration should be given to making the historically re-active response to curriculum review a pro-active strategy whereby the EYFS and the statutory curriculum for primary and secondary schools are reviewed at agreed intervals as a whole, rather than as separate phases reviewed out of sequence. This would impose a discipline on the process of review such that schools could be assured of a period of stability in which to achieve agreed curricular goals.


Recommendation 3: The aims for a revised primary curriculum derived from the 2006 Education Act, the Children’s Plan and ‘Every Child Matters’ should be underpinned by a unified statement of values which is fit for all stages of statutory education. The aims and values established as part of the recent secondary curriculum review should be extended to the primary curriculum.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.



Recommendation 4: In preparing for a revised curriculum in 2011, examples of good timetabling and time management from highly successful schools should be made available.


Curriculum design and content

Recommendation 5: The content of the primary curriculum should be organised as it is now under knowledge, skills and understanding but structured as six areas of learning to enable children to benefit fully from high quality subject teaching and equally challenging cross-curricular studies.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

Recommendation 6: (i) To help primary schools plan for, and sustain curricular continuity, and secure pupils’ progress from Year R to Year 7, the QCA should work closely with the National Strategies to support schools to plan the new curriculum.

(ii) Web-based guidance should be made available drawing upon the experience of that for the secondary curriculum. This should include refreshing the primary literacy and numeracy frameworks.

(iii) In line with arrangements for implementing the new secondary curriculum, DCSF should provide primary schools with one extra training day in 2010 to enable the workforce in each school to understand the new primary curriculum and start planning how it will work in their school.


Recommendation 7: The DCSF should commission a plain-language guide to the curriculum for parents to help them understand how it will change to match children’s developing abilities and how they can best support their children’s learning at school.


Literacy, numeracy and ICT

Recommendation 8: (i) Literacy, numeracy and ICT should form the new core of the primary curriculum.

(ii) Schools should continue to prioritise literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development as the foundational knowledge, skills and understanding of the primary curriculum; the content of which should be clearly defined, taught discretely, and used and applied extensively in each area of learning.

(iii) The DCSF Expert Group on Assessment should give consideration to how the new core of literacy, numeracy and ICT should be assessed and these aspects of children’s performance reported to parents.

Recommendation 8(i): Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

Recommendations 8(ii) and 8(iii):


Recommendation 9: Primary schools should make sure that children’s spoken communication is developed intensively within all subjects and for learning across the curriculum. In so doing, schools should capitalise on the powerful contributions of the performing and visual arts, especially role play and drama.


Recommendation 10: (i) Primary schools should continue to build on the commendable progress many have made in teaching decoding and encoding skills for reading and spelling through high quality, systematic, phonic work as advocated by the 2006 Reading Review as the prime approach for teaching beginner readers.

(ii)Similar priorities and principles should apply to numeracy in keeping with the recommendations of the Williams Review.


Recommendation 11: (i)The two early learning goals for writing should be retained as valid, aspirational goals for the end of the reception class.

(ii) DCSF should offer additional guidance for practitioners and teachers on supporting young children’s emerging writing skills, including examples of how these two goals are being achieved by many children.


Recommendation 12: The DCSF, working with QCA and BECTA’ should consider what additional support teachers will need to meet the raised expectations of children’s ICT capabilities and use of technology to enrich learning across the curriculum and set in train adequate support.


Personal development

Recommendation 13: (i) The QCA, in consultation with representative groups, should exemplify and promote the range of learning envisioned in the new framework for personal development with the firm intention of helping schools to plan for balanced coverage, and avoid piecemeal treatment of this central aspect of the curriculum.

(ii) Personal Development should be given core status along with literacy, numeracy and ICT. The QCA should work with schools to explore and develop innovative ways of assessing pupil progress in this area.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.


Recommendation 14: (i) The preferred pattern of entry to reception classes should be the September immediately following a child’s fourth birthday. However, this should be subject to well-informed discussion with parents, taking into account their views of a child’s maturity and readiness to enter reception class. Arrangements should be such as to make entry to reception class an exciting and enjoyable experience for all children, with opportunities for flexible arrangements such as a period of part-time attendance if judged appropriate.

(ii) The DCSF should provide information to parents and local authorities about the optimum conditions, flexibilities and benefits to children of entering reception class in the September immediately after their fourth birthday.


Recommendation 15: The QCA should make sure that guidance on the revised primary curriculum includes clear advice on how best to support those children who need to continue to work toward the early learning goals and build on the learning that has taken place in the EYFS.


Recommendation 16: What constitutes high quality of play-based learning, especially across the EYFS and into Year 1, should be made explicit in guidance from the QCA. Because parents, too, need to understand the importance to children of learning through play, appropriate aspects this guidance should be routed through schools to parents.


Recommendation 17: Key Stage 1 teachers should be involved in the moderation of Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) assessments within schools, to increase their understanding of the EYFSP and their confidence in the judgements of reception teachers.


Recommendation 18: Major central initiatives, such as, Assessment for Learning and Assessing Pupils’ Progress have huge potential for strengthening the transition of children from primary to secondary schools. The DCSF should develop these initiatives to keep pace with the fast growing appetite in primary schools to take them on board.


Recommendation 19: With their local authorities, primary and secondary schools, should agree a joint policy for bridging children’s transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3. Five inter-dependent transition bridges are suggested for this purpose: administrative; social and personal; curriculum; pedagogy, and autonomy and managing learning. This should involve extended studies across Year 6 and Year 7, and draw upon the support of personal tutors.


Recommendation 20: When the National Strategies next review their materials they should look to further strengthen curricular continuity between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3.



Recommendation 21: The knowledge, skills, understanding that children need to acquire in languages should be situated within the area of learning entitled “English, communication and languages”. This will enable teachers and pupils to exploit the links between English and the chosen language(s) and realise the potential, for example, of role play and drama for young children learning a modern language.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

Recommendation 22: Schools should focus on teaching only one or two languages. This should not preclude providing pupils with experiences in other languages as opportunities arise in cross-curricular studies, as long as sustained learning is secured in one or two languages to ensure that children are able to achieve progression over four years in line with the expectations of the Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

Recommendation 23: Primary schools should be free to choose the language(s) that they wish to teach, however, as far as possible the languages offered should be those which children will be taught in Key Stage 3.

Accept in principle, subject to public consultation.

Recommendation 24: The commendable work that is taking place to support the delivery of language teaching through workforce development programmes should continue at current levels of funding.

Accept in principle, subject to comprehensive spending review settlement beyond April 2011.

Recommendation 25: A survey by OFSTED of how well primary schools are managing the introduction of languages as a compulsory subject should take place no later than 2014.