Skip to main content

National Curriculum (English)

Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

On 11 June, we published draft national curriculum programmes of study for primary English, science and mathematics. The draft curriculum for English demonstrates our commitment to improving standards of literacy. Pupils will be taught to read fluently and develop a strong command of the written and spoken word. There will be a greater focus on the fundamentals of phonics, grammar and spelling, and a much stronger emphasis on reading widely for pleasure.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Two years ago, the Secretary of State struck a blow against cultural relativism when he rightly said that the teaching of Dryden and Pope, Byron, Shelley and Keats, Austen, Dickens and Hardy should lie at the heart of school life. Will the Minister assure me that when the curriculum is published and enforced, the promise set out by the Secretary of State is indeed met?

As part of the consultation, we are asking people to consider how we can set out those poems, books and literature that we think students should be reading at given stages of their education. I do not think it would necessarily be right for a Government Department to prescribe the detail, but there may be a way that we can do so through other organisations or by asking the public what they think.

What does the Minister think will be added by a statutory grammar test for 11-year-olds that could not be achieved by relying on effective assessment by teachers?

I think that a focus on grammar, punctuation and spelling is important. The evidence from around the world shows that the education jurisdictions that perform best have three things in common: autonomy for teachers, trusting the professionals and regular external assessment in their schools.