Children, Schools and Families Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee am ar 21 Ionawr 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

CS13 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

CS14 Children are Unbeatable! Alliance

CS15 Dani Ahrens

CS16 Rosemary McGruther

The Committee deliberated in private.

On resuming

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Good morning, everyone. I remind colleagues—you probably do not need reminding—that this sitting finishes at 10.25 am; it is relatively short.

I welcome our witnesses. I am not sure whether all of you have given evidence before to a Committee such as this, but it is pretty straightforward. We have asked you here this morning so that colleagues can gather evidence, which will be helpful when the Committee stage of our proceedings starts next week. As I have said to other witnesses, relax and enjoy the experience. Will you kindly introduce yourselves, and perhaps make a brief comment on the Bill? May we start with Sir Jim Rose?

Sir Jim Rose: I am Jim Rose. I retired from Ofsted, director of education and director of inspection, in 1999. Since then, I have done several reviews. The latest, of course, was the primary curriculum review, which to some extent may be on the table today.

Sue Barratt: I am Sue Barratt. I am head teacher at Bournville junior school in Birmingham. I have been working for quite a few years on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority advisory committee, which for part of that time was the lead vehicle for Sir Jim Rose’s review. At present, I am working with the national college of school leadership on the implementation of the new primary curriculum, particularly on the leadership aspect.

I generally support the Children, Schools and Families Bill. From my point of view as a head teacher, I really don’t want it to cause unnecessary work and bureaucracy in schools. I also ask that careful consideration is given to the lead-in times for the new initiatives, so that they do not all fall on schools at the same time—that is, in September 2011—and we are not faced with all these things coming at once.

John McIntosh: I am John McIntosh. I was headmaster at the London Oratory school for just under 30 years. I retired three years ago. I now do some advisory work with local authorities, mainly Hammersmith and Fulham. I tutor on two postgraduate certificate in education courses at Buckingham university, and I am a governor of three schools.

My stance on the Bill is that it increases central prescription and introduces a lot more unnecessary bureaucracy. It shifts the balance of responsibility from governors and heads to the state and, to some extent, it undermines the rights of parents and families. It will distract primary schools from focusing on improving the quality of teachers, particularly in reading, literacy and numeracy, and undermine the integrity of individual subjects.

Q122Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): I want first to ask Sir Jim Rose a couple of questions. What is the difference between mathematics—the current national curriculum for primary schools under section 84 of the Education Act 2002—and mathematical understanding, which is what you propose as an area of learning in clause 10 of the Bill?

Sir Jim Rose: I am not sure that it is anything different from what we have now. The existing national curriculum requires knowledge, skills and understanding to be the structure under which we decide the content of subjects or otherwise. My recollection from sitting on Sir Peter Williams’ review of maths was that the pattern that he was promoting and, in fact, recommended was just that. We have simply supported it. In other words, the national curriculum was structured originally, and still is, under knowledge, skills and understanding. My review takes that forward and simply says that we need to make absolutely sure that the knowledge content is well defined, that the skills that go with it are clearly well defined and that we apply the knowledge and skills to win understanding.

I am pleased that you picked on mathematics. It is a particularly good example. In the recent past, Ofsted commented on maths and said that children are taught sums, but often do not know what sums to do or how to apply that knowledge when it comes to a practical situation. Given that sort of evidence, which has come forward fairly consistently, I think that the way in which we are suggesting things should be structured is very sensible.

Q 123

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

But you said initially that you were not sure that it was anything different from what we have now.

Sir Jim Rose: We say quite clearly in the review that we support the national curriculum as an entitlement. I think that there is too much in it, and that has always been the problem for primary, which I shall elaborate on if you wish. We should certainly be doing something about that. We are not stepping back. In fact, I would like to think that what we have achieved is a massive reinforcement of what everyone recognises as the basics for primary education—with the biggest impact hopefully being on literacy.

Q 124

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Well, let us pick up literacy and your comment about prescription. You say in your report that the criticism was that the existing curriculum had so much prescribed content. I have here the programme of study for the English subject or area of learning, as you call it. It has 84 objectives. Why do we need so much prescription for our professional teachers in this country? Why do we need objectives? Why do we need 84 objectives? Why do we need objectives like M15

“to recognise how authors of moving image and multimodal texts use different combinations of words, images and sounds to create effects and make meaning”?

What does that mean, and why do we have to have so much prescription for our professional teachers?

Sir Jim Rose: Two things: first, when the national curriculum was introduced, it contained probably three times as many statements of attainment, which corresponds, I think, to what you are now pointing out. Over time—it is not due to my review alone—we have actually reduced that.

Q125Mr. Gibb: Why not just scrap the whole thing?

Sir Jim Rose: Well, let me just take an area in which you are very interested and have done a lot to support—literacy; the teaching of reading. If you look at the teaching of reading, one of the great sins of omission in the past was the attention that was given to phonic work in the broader programme of English. It was the one thing that, immediately the pressures were on, tended to be neglected. We brought that back to a very important status within literacy, and if you wish to make sure that that is secure, you have to recognise that teaching children how the alphabet works is crucial, so what is said there, somehow, somewhere, will be:

“Grapheme-phoneme...correspondences...in a clearly defined, incremental sequence.

To apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes in order, all through a word to read it.

To apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell.

That blending and segmenting are reversible processes.”

In other words, reading and writing—spelling and reading—are reversible processes. If we are going to help teachers see the progression that is needed, and what it is that they actually need to do, you have to have some level of prescription. The issue is how much.

Q126Mr. Gibb: That is E8 that you read out:

“to hear, identify, segment and blend phonemes in the order in which they occur in words to decode text”.

That is one objective out of 84. It is the only one that mentions that. Are you saying that teachers in primary schools should spend only one 84th of the time on the English curriculum?

Sir Jim Rose: No, no.

Q127Mr. Gibb: So these objectives do not carry equal weight? It is an important point.

Sir Jim Rose: Of course they do not carry equal weight. The other important thing, which I think you are pointing out, is that some of them are so closely related that you will be teaching them almost simultaneously.

Sir Jim Rose: I could certainly give you case histories that could illustrate that.

Q128Mr. Gibb: May I open this up now and ask John McIntosh for his view of the new primary curriculum? I understand you were a headmaster at the junior school at the London Oratory.

John McIntosh: Yes. It has admitted boys at the age of seven for the past 14 years. It was a department that I established in the school.

Q129Mr. Gibb: Can you tell us about personal, social, health and economic education? I would like your views on that as well.

John McIntosh: As far as the curriculum is concerned, my views are perhaps rather more general than those expressed in the Rose review and the proposed legislation that arises out of it. I feel that the over-prescription and regulation of the curriculum—not just in primary but across the board—has to a degree led to what I might call the deprofessionalisation of teachers, who are now expected to behave in an almost robotic way in accepting orders from QCA and in secondary legislation. A lot of the discussion I hear in schools as I go round now and, before I retired, among one’s colleague heads, was not about what children should really be learning—about the real nature of the curriculum—but what children need to do to meet the Government requirements in respect of the national curriculum and the targets that they are expected to achieve. Their approach to the curriculum seems not to be a question of deciding what curriculum to provide for the particular children they have in their school, but what they need to do in order to meet the targets and the requirements of the orders. To add to that at secondary—I find a lot of heads talk in terms of what they need to do in order to maximise the position of the school in the league tables rather than what they should be teaching children at key stage 4. So my criticism of the Bill is that it just compounds something which I believe is already seriously flawed, and adds to what I call the deprofessionalisation of the teaching profession. Teachers are no longer entering into the dialogue that they really ought to be entering into about the nature of what they are teaching, and what children in schools ought to be learning.

As far as PSHE is concerned, I am looking at the items listed in the Bill. I do not think I could quibble with most of them. Most good schools are probably already covering most of those items in the curriculum. What I do quibble with is the idea that PSHE should be a discrete subject in the curriculum. Although the Bill does not actually say that, the effect of putting it in a Bill like this and is that it will become just that—a discrete subject. The curriculum is already seriously overcrowded. Heads and senior staff out there are probably already gearing up to include this in the curriculum. Personally, were I a parent looking around schools and at prospectuses, if I saw PSHE on the school curriculum, that would be a school to avoid. I would want to see all the things that are included in the Bill in the curriculum, but they should be taught through other subjects.

In the Rose review, a lot of reference is made to cross-curricular things and links. This is a good case for cross-curricular work. These things should all be embedded in the curriculum in other subjects, but you should be very careful about putting them into legislation in this form, where they will almost certainly finish up as a discrete subject in an overcrowded curriculum. These are things that every teacher should be taking responsibility for; they should not just be specialists in schools for PSHE.

Q130Mr. Gibb: Thank you very much. Finally, just a quick question for Sue Barratt: would you not know what to do, in terms of teaching, if you did not have the programme of study to lean on, the 84 objectives?  Would you be completely lost as a teacher if you did not have these 84 objectives?

Sue Barratt: I would not be as a head teacher of 13 years, but someone coming new into the profession would be. They do need guidance.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Is that not your job as a head teacher, to guide them?

Sue Barratt: Well, it would be, but—

Q131Mr. Gibb: Would you, as a head teacher, helping a new teacher, therefore, be lost if you did not have the 84 objectives?

Sue Barratt: Can we say that we also need them for assessment purposes as well? We do need the objectives, to drive us as we take things through, and for progression, moving the child through from key stage 1 to key stage 2 and key stage 3.

Q132Mr. Gibb: So, will you be testing your children on M15? Will you be testing a child to see whether they

“recognise how authors of moving-image and multimodal texts use different combinations of words, images and sounds to create effects and make meaning”?

Will you be testing children on that?

Sue Barratt: We would not be testing them on that, but we would be seeing if they had the necessary skills with that, yes, to make sure that they have that very overall curriculum that we would expect them to have at Bournville. So, yes, we would be taking them through and testing them on it.

Q133Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): Could you comment, Sir Jim—Sue and John might like to as well—about the evidence that areas of learning are more effective than a subject-based curriculum? Following on from that is the point that Sue may have alluded to in her opening statement, about just how different teaching to an area base rather than a subject base will be? What is really involved between now and 2011, before this comes in, in terms of training, changes in the classroom and changes in how these previously subject-based areas were taught?

Sir Jim Rose: Let me have a go at that. First, it is not right to imagine that what we are doing is displacing the subjects with areas of learning. What we are saying is that you go through subject disciplines to get to cross-curricular studies, which will add to children’s understanding and give them the enthusiasm for learning that we all want to see.

I am sorry to go over this in historical terms, but it is important to understand where we are coming from. If you look at the territory as it exists, the six years that define primary—five to 11—all seem to be the piggy in the middle. What we do is we sort out early years, we sort out secondary and then—the problem for this remit—we have to think about how we get from one to the other. The early years foundation stage curriculum, is still very largely, and should be, play-based, with all that that means—not unstructured, not play all day by whim as it were, so that children are not being enriched and taken forward in language and so forth. There are very important goals for play, which are now well and truly embedded in that early years foundation stage. It  is a triumph in my view, apart from one thing, which, if you ask me, I shall tell you about, which is to do with how much of the curriculum is atomised into boxes for assessment.

We look at primary, and we are saying that we have to get from those six areas which the foundation stage will have promoted: communication, language and literacy; personal, social and emotional development; physical development; knowledge and understanding of the world; creative development; and problem solving, reasoning and numeracy. That is how they define their curriculum—not a word that they find easy, but that is nevertheless what it amounts to.

Then we go to secondary, where we have 13 subjects, or seven plus religious education. There is no way in which we can pursue a primary curriculum, which is what we are doing at the moment under that secondary definition of having boxed off subjects taught in that way—I mean physically, never mind whether it is right to do so in educational terms.

We then ask what are the other priorities for primary. Surely no one, in this day and age, is going to step back from saying that we should major on literacy and numeracy. I have also said that it is important, in Gibb’s terms, to get information and communications technology sorted out. That is the new kid on the block, and certainly we should have done quite an interesting job there. By the end of the primary phase, however, if we can get the resources right—it is mainly a matter of human resources; people who know their stuff—we should be moving more towards a subject designation that ties in to secondary. That tapestry, that mix and that balance is really what the review has been about. It has not been easy, and I don’t think we shall ever be able to get the sort of perfection that many people believe is possible. I certainly don’t think that defining these things as objectives sends the right message. What we are trying to put together is a path of progression.

If you take science, at the moment there are things called level descriptors. One of them is making sure that children understand over that six-year period, contributing to the secondary curriculum as best we can, how science works. What is it about science that defines it as a territory that is a worthwhile investment in educational terms? What constitutes evidence in science? Organisms and their behaviour and the environment is another level descriptor—materials, their properties in the earth, and energy forces in space. That is just for science.

I have tried to indicate what primary teachers also have to do for literacy, English, mathematics and the rest of it. Remember that by and large we are talking about a generalist class teacher, with a class of somewhere around 30—perhaps with support from teaching assistants and so on. There is nothing new about that; it has been going on since Adam was a lad. But those are some of the constraints on primary that we have to address.

Q134Caroline Flint: Do you think that the transition is an enormous task, or is it an adaptable one, given what people are doing already? To be honest, in many of the primary schools that I visit, that sort of thematic work is already happening.

Sir Jim Rose: Yes, it is. I hope that they do it by making sure that they do not neglect what they are able to do by way of subject definition.

Last year, for example, was Darwin’s bicentenary, and there has been a lot of hoo-hah about evolution and so on, and teaching it in primary schools. Lots of primary schools adopted the Kew kits, which furnish a really good programme for the Darwin bicentenary. What were they studying under that thematic approach? In history, they are looking at a great Victorian. In science, certainly, as far as they can understand it, I can give you some graphic and interesting examples. In geography, where are the Galapagos islands? How did Darwin get there? Who did he meet on the way? What are they like now? Who owns them? All of that, in my view, is a very enriching pattern of learning for primary children.

This week, as we speak, we’ve got some really remarkable stuff going on at the British Museum—the history of the world in 100 objects. It has been exhilarating, just the kind of thing that primary children will latch on to and enjoy—much more, actually, in the subject domain. What is history? How do we find the evidence? The museum director said, “It is not to do with looking at all our stuff as dead objects. We are researching them all the time. We are finding Saxon hoard gold in Shropshire or a new way of interpreting this axe and so on.” History is a living thing—terrific. We are trying to get some of that zest into the primary curriculum.

Sue Barratt: I would like to give an example of something that we have been doing at Bournville that relates to the question. Three years ago, we decided that we did not want to be straitjacketed by the present curriculum, so we set about writing our own, which we called the learning journey. It was written to suit the needs of our pupils, and we wanted to make it more localised, as it would be more meaningful. As a school, we did a lot of research beforehand with the children, the parents and the staff to look at the ways in which our children learned best. We looked at the content that we needed to use under the national curriculum and the content that would be applicable for our school, and we blended it. Within our curriculum, we blended well-focused subject teaching with cross-curricular things.

For example, our year 6 has just completed a study of the frozen house, which is actually an in-depth historical study of world war two. In year 3, we have “Where in the World”, where we make a local study of Bournville and look at its geography and history. Another example is geography in year 5, where we have “Our World, Our Responsibility”, which is on the Arctic and the Antarctic. So we do go into focused subject areas, but we do it as part of our cross-curricular approach.

Within that, we obviously have to look at the core skills of literacy and numeracy. We have been working hard on both of them, looking at transferring our learning across. In literacy in year 5, we do a study of the Birmingham Hippodrome, and the children will be required to write play scripts, reviews etc. Everything is moved across, so you would expect children in a cross-curricular lesson to produce things for literacy that are at the same standard as the things that they would produce in a literacy lesson so that they get the same understanding.

Commonly in schools, that is not the case. When children are outside the literacy lesson, and you put them in another situation, they do not apply the same skills, and that is something that we really have to teach them for later life so that they get a depth of understanding.  The school has worked very hard on the issue, and our level 5s in literacy increased from 35 to 55 per cent. this year, and we think most of that is due to this cross-curricular approach and taking literacy across.

I should add that before I came here, I talked to my co-ordinators, and they said that everybody is welcome to visit us at Bournville if they want to see how we use cross-curricular themes with this focused subject teaching.

Q135Caroline Flint: I want to come back on a point that John made about PSHE. On one level, John, I agree with you that, in an ideal world, teachers would incorporate matters relating to life skills rather in the way that we have talked about in relation to thematic learning. It would be lovely if we could incorporate matters such as how to open a bank account or how to work out the percentages in relation to your bank interest. I absolutely agree with that, but we do not necessarily live in an ideal world, and you might need something more specific in areas such as sex and relationships education, where you might want to take groups of girls and groups of boys outside the classroom on their own. Sometimes, the person marking your homework is not necessarily always the best person to provide support for your emotional and social development. To be honest, I do not see this is an either/or.

John McIntosh: First, may I say that my uneasiness about all this and about all the legislation that has gone before comes from the fact that I do not think that there is an ideal model out there somewhere in the ether or a template that can be created centrally to suit all schools? What works in my school probably will not work in the school three blocks down the road.

That is a general point, but to come back to your more specific point about PSHE, the job of a good head and his senior staff is to ensure that these things are properly embedded in the other subjects and to make arrangements in the curriculum to ensure that that happens. For instance, when citizenship was made a statutory requirement in schools, there was no way in which the word citizenship was going to appear on my timetable or in my curriculum. But we mapped the statutory requirements right the way across the existing curriculum and, at the end of it all, we found that we had a number of things that we could not easily accommodate, even if we had wanted to.

In the end, we introduced a new period each week at key stage 4 called complementary studies, and we got the best staff we had to teach half-term modules. That was our way of tackling the issue and making sure that the statutory requirements were covered. There is no reason why PSHE should not be approached in the same way. However, rather than putting it in the Bill, I think it would be much better in a code of practice. If schools then did not follow that code, they would have to explain why they were not implementing it and what they were putting in its place. That would be a much more professional way to treat the teaching profession and governing bodies that have responsibility for curriculum, saying, “This is what we believe should be in your curriculum. It does not have to be a separate subject, but it should be there, including sex and relationships education.” I agree with all that, but not that it should be enshrined in primary legislation as though it is a discrete subject.

Q136Mr. David Laws (Yeovil) (LD): I am struggling to understand what difference your review and its implementation will make on the ground in primary schools. Can you imagine for a moment that you are not in front of 15 brilliantly informed MPs, but in a pub in Yeovil trying to explain to the average man in the pub how primary education for their child will be different after your review—what there will be more and less of. In a few sentences in pub language, what does it boil down to?

Sir Jim Rose: The Australians have an interesting view of that. They reckon that, apart from pub language, you ought to be able to explain something to Ministers in the time that it takes a lift to travel between three floors. My answer, I am afraid, is that I cannot. However, what I can say is that I think it is extremely important to ensure that we understand that this is modelled on the best practice that we have found.

Q137Mr. Laws: You have lost me as the man in the pub. What will there be more of and what will there be less of?

Sir Jim Rose: There will be a greater and much more informed emphasis on what you, the man in the pub, would regard as the basics. There is no doubt about that whatsoever.

Q138Mr. Laws: More literacy and numeracy?

Sir Jim Rose: Not just more of those as you might have it in your head as reading, writing and arithmetic, but more to do with getting children to be much more articulate so that their speaking and listening skills—their oral language—is given a rich boost. One of the things that we know is that reading and writing feed off speaking and listening, and speaking and listening, as communication skills, are very important in their own right.

Q139Mr. Laws: That will happen in all classes, not just in English?

Sir Jim Rose: That will most certainly, if people follow the programme, be given much more emphasis than in the past. It will be done through important subjects such as drama and, not literacy, but literature, being enlarged and made much more available to children, so they are getting enrichment in all that. You have to read the background to understand why we are doing what we are doing to get to where we want to be. We will also be looking much more effectively at what I would call a modern curriculum, in terms of where our children will be when they have gone through the whole of that process and come out the other end in 2024. Sorry, I do not know whether the man in the pub will understand that.

Q140Mr. Laws: You are getting close to the man in the pub, but can I push you a bit further? I sort of understand, as a man in the pub, what you might be talking about, although I am still struggling a bit.

Sir Jim Rose: That is because you did not have early speaking and listening lessons.

Q141Mr. Laws: To make time for the things that you have said are important, what are a few of the things that will not be taught in schools any more, in your view, because maybe some schools will drop some things?

Sir Jim Rose: Yes, they will.

Q142Mr. Laws: Give us some examples of things that you think will be dumped in the future to substitute some of the things that you are arguing for.

Sir Jim Rose: I do not think that it is a matter of doing that sort of zero sum. There will be some things that are not as appropriate. This is always the issue with a curriculum. You have to decide on the difference between the essential and the desirable. That is what we have tried to do.

Q143Mr. Laws: Let us try to be honest about it and give some practical examples. Imagine that you are a head teacher in a primary school pre your review and post your review. You have described some of the things that you would do more of.

Sir Jim Rose: I can tell you one of the things that I am not too impressed about when I go around and see schools doing things. One thing that seems to have taken off is this so-called circle time, where a lot of the things that come under PSHE often, but not always, seem to be rather trivial. I would want to question how much time it is necessary to spend on that.

Q144Mr. Laws: What sort of thing?

Sir Jim Rose: PSHE. We have talked about it.

Q145 24Mr. Laws: Yes, but which bits?

Sir Jim Rose: If you are going to give an hour a week to circle time out of a 21-hour week, it has to be well-structured and set up, in the hands of an expert, to get full value for money out of that precious hour. I must tell you that I have not seen a great deal of impressive work in that territory. I have seen some. I have been looking at the business of PSHE and all the rest of it much more rigorously. That is why we put it in the core so that, like the name in a stick of rock, it runs through. I think that primary children, particularly, always respond in kind.

Q146Mr. Laws: You have picked an area to get rid of that will probably warm the hearts of—

Sir Jim Rose: Not get rid of.

Sir Jim Rose: I am saying, “Hang on. Let’s not get rid of it. Let’s make it”—

Q147Mr. Laws: You have picked an area to get rid of that Mr. Gibb will probably like, but you have not necessarily picked any teaching of history, basics or facts. Is that because you are not going to get rid of any of that or because you do not want to upset Mr. Gibb and set him at your throat?

Sir Jim Rose: I am sure that I shall upset Mr. Gibb whatever I say.

Q148Mr. Laws: Are you going to drop any fact-based education?

Sir Jim Rose: Can we just talk about this fact-based business, for a start? If you are putting together a progression in a subject such as maths—which is a fairly linear subject, let us admit—and if you look at our international comparisons of maths content, one thing that the others seem to do rather better than we do is number work. We give more time to data handling and so on. I would want to look—as indeed we have—at those areas and try to make some adjustments between them.

I think that we have done that, actually. I think that we brought money to the fore—financial capability and all the rest of it—within the maths programme. I have lost my bit of paper now, but if you looked at what seems to constitute personal development, it is citizenship, drugs education, emotional health and well-being—by the way, alcohol and tobacco are in there—nutrition and physical activity, economic understanding, safety, sex and relationship education. Just that lot alone is a fairly big ask of primary schools.

Q149Mr. Laws: Do you have the paper that the Department issued on Tuesday entitled “Clause 10 new primary curriculum policy statement”?

Sir Jim Rose: I think that I must have it somewhere. I cannot recall where.

Q150Mr. Laws: In paragraph 2—it would be useful if you could see it, because it is unfair to you otherwise—it lists six things that your new curriculum will deliver. If I were Vernon, I would be a bit upset, because I would expect primary schools to be doing every one of those things now. Are any of them things that primary schools are not doing now?

Sir Jim Rose: Of course they ought to be doing them now. The question is whether they are doing them well enough. It is a qualitative issue as well. That is exactly where we were with reading. Of course they are all teaching reading, and they will all tell you that they are teaching phonics. The issue is how well that is being done, and whether it is being done in a way that secures learning for children. Very often—this is an inspectorial view—when you actually go and look at what people do as compared and contrasted with what they say they do, there is a difference.

Q151Mr. Laws:Thanks for that. My last question is to John and Sue, who are on the front line. I genuinely cannot understand whether Sir Jim’s review will make a dramatic difference. Will it make things better, worse or the same? I genuinely do not know. What is your view of the review? Will it make the primary curriculum and primary education better, will it not make much difference or will it make it worse?

Sue Barratt: I personally think that it will make a great difference to the primary curriculum. I asked Jim Knight some time ago whether we could have a review of the key stage 2 curriculum, because it was incredibly overcrowded. Everything just seemed to be dumped into it, and we were being ignored. There was a key stage 3 review and an early years review, but key stage 2 was totally left out. As the head teacher of a junior school, I am very pleased that some attention has been given to primary, and in particular to key stage 2.

I think it will give us much greater flexibility within our curriculum. We will not be straitjacketed by the overloaded curriculum. We did a series of conferences last year with the national college, and the support from the head teachers was phenomenal. Now that primaries are being taken notice of for a change, people are really keen that something actually happens and that we have something to get our teeth into. We can localise it and tailor it to our school; we will have that freedom. We can also provide deeper and richer learning experiences because we are not so straitjacketed.

Because of those three areas of progression, certainly in the higher years 5 and 6 we can tailor more subject teaching, and we can also lead that going through into  key stage 3. The other thing, certainly in a junior school, is that we are sort of capped at level 5. If I have level 6 children, I cannot take them beyond that.

Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

That is really useful. I must move on to John, otherwise the Chairman will cut us off I suspect.

John McIntosh: Clearly, Sue and I approach the curriculum from different angles. I have spoken to three primary heads in inner London about this, and they view it with some dismay. They feel that it is a distraction.

Q152Mr. Laws: Do they say that it will make it worse, or no different?

John McIntosh: It is a distraction. They happen to be three strong heads who—I won’t say that they ignore the current arrangements, but they get on and plan a curriculum and hope that it meets the statutory requirements. They see this as a distraction.

Q153Mr. Laws: They do not think it is worse?

John McIntosh: No, they do not think it is worse, but it is a distraction that will get in the way and take teachers away from the school for more courses and conferences and so on, to discuss the implementation of all this, which they feel is unnecessary.

We come at this from a different angle. Sixteen years ago when we decided to open a junior department at the school, I was on the governing body of a local prep school, and on the governing body of a local primary school which, as it happened, was only a stone’s throw away from the prep school. The contrast between the teaching and the curriculum in those two schools was staggering. In the prep school, the children had specialist teachers. They had a curriculum that was similar to that of a secondary school—a subject-based curriculum with properly qualified subject teachers teaching them. In the primary school, in spite of the national curriculum and its provisions at the time, there were still theme-based, generalist teachers. The achievement was, by comparison with the children in the preparatory school, pretty dreadful.

We were designing a curriculum, and where I went for advice on how I should go about designing that curriculum for my junior section will be no surprise to Committee members. We did that, and one of the things I learned was that so many primary schools were not demanding enough of these pupils. A lot of the youngsters—seven, eight, nine and 10-year olds—have a lot more to give, but that expectation is not there. They are not being worked as hard as they should be. We are not getting as much out of them.

We introduced a curriculum that covered all the national curriculum requirements, plus a modern foreign language plus, in year 4/5, Latin. Those children were also doing a specialist music course, and they rose to that challenge. They still rise to it. They are still there and still doing it, and they are the better for it. There is a marked difference between those pupils who started in the school at the age of seven and have come through into the secondary section, and many of the pupils who come from outside. I am convinced that we need separate subject teaching and specialist teachers in primary schools. That is another issue in a sense, and a big one to be tackled at some other time.

Since I have mentioned music, as somebody who is not only passionate about it, but believes that we need it back in the curriculum in our schools, I am surprised that the Rose review says so little about it as a subject in primary school. The recommendations in the annexe at the back of the report refer to music, but not as a subject, which I feel ought to be fairly central to what we are doing. That is not just because I believe that children ought to learn a musical instrument or sing, but there are enormous benefits for them personally. It nourishes them spiritually in a non-religious sense. It enables them to grow in self-esteem and to work with others in teams; in ensemble groups. This is anecdotal, not evidence-based, but I am in no doubt that the boys—it was an all boys’ school—who studied music through the school were two or three years ahead in social development by the time they got to the age of 14 or 15. Yet that is not addressed. There are lots of cross-curricular things to be learned in music. Children who learn to read music early on have a good idea of ratio, of rational numbers. We cannot read music unless we learn to divide up bars—sometimes in quite a complex way with compound time. I am sorry that the opportunity to put the music back where it should be in our primary curriculum has been lost. It is not there.

Q154Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): I have a very mixed constituency. I mention that to you, so you know where I am coming from. One ward is called Ilkley, a small spa town. It is very professional and very middle class. I know just what John is talking about. It is the sort of thing that is going on in the primary school and the senior school there.

In two wards in the centre of Keighley, about 30 per cent. of the children go to school at the age of four without a word of English. English is not spoken in the home; it is not spoken in the mosque; it is not spoken in the community centre, the street or on the football pitch. They speak just one language—Punjabi or sometimes Urdu and occasionally, Bangla. Is there anything in the Bill that will help those children get off to a good start in primary school, given that they do not speak a word of English when they enter? Not only that, many of them do not have a very good grasp of their mother tongue. Many of their mothers have large families, and the mother has little help because her own family are in Pakistan. She is thrown in at the deep end with a large family. She does not have the time to talk and play with the children. They are starting from a difficult place. Many of the girls are ready to do A-levels at the age of 18, and that is wonderful—it says a great deal for the schools. Is there anything in the Bill that will make things even better for those people or is something missing that should be in it?

I agree with the points about music. Through Bollywood, we are at last getting a bit of music into what are mainly Pakistani schools. It is perhaps not the best source, but Bollywood is coming into it. Can you just talk us through a few things that you think will be really useful to those kids, or should something else be in the Bill?

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Just before you answer, I wish to say to everyone that we have now used up more than half our time. All colleagues want to ask our witnesses questions. Our witnesses are very passionate, but I am just a little worried that we will have disappointed colleagues unless we shorten the answers and the questions.

Sir Jim Rose: I will try to give a short answer. I agree entirely—surprisingly perhaps—with what John said about music. If I had specialists at our disposal to that degree, that would obviously be the way to go. I think that we are getting quite a good deal on music, as it happens. I have tried to say in the report that music is one of the performing arts that makes a fantastic contribution alongside drama and all those things. An epitome of that is the lady sitting next to me whose school is doing remarkably well in music. I sat in that school with my eyes closed, listening to the violins and I thought that I was in the Albert hall. Sue delivers on music.

We have illustrated the huge range that we must cope with in not just primary education, but education throughout. The variations of coping with that are phenomenally difficult in many respects. This is a very good example of it. It greatly turns on whether the language group that we are speaking about is literate in its own language or not.

Sir Jim Rose: I am saying that there is a strong division between those children who know how to read and write in their mother tongue, and those who do not. You will find that there is quite a quick transfer into English, if they can read or write in their mother tongue—whatever it is. If not, we clearly have to do more enrichment, with them getting absolutely immersed in spoken English. I really believe that—and the earlier, the better.

You’ll find through the Sure Start centres and everything else that has been developed along those lines that the message has now gone out; into it goes some very structured work to get those children well ahead on spoken English. That is why we are making such a fuss about communication skills sitting alongside English and languages; there is a strong read-across. If we can get teachers in line with all that, it will work very well to promote the sort of progress that we hope for with those children. It is interesting, particularly with the girls, once they have acquired English, to see the speed with which they catch up—not only catch up, but overtake. However, we have a problem with the boys throughout.

Photo of Ann Cryer Ann Cryer Llafur, Keighley

I am afraid so, yes. Does no one else want to talk to me about that?

Sue Barratt: Only that you have more flexibility in this curriculum, that you can tailor it more to some of the children. You could tailor some of the teaching for them, with curriculum modules and things that would suit the children, perhaps relating to where they come from to give them a sense of identity. There is scope to do that.

Q155Caroline Flint: At the heart of this debate and across political parties is the question of how much should be prescribed by the state, and how much should be left to the professionals. I believe that the man or woman in the pub or on the bus—or anywhere else—will find it difficult to understand why we are still talking about having to explain to teachers why communications skills are so important.

Sir Jim, you said that you found a lack of understanding in some of our schools about the importance of being  able to make a phone call or to speak in public. Why are we finding this inability among professional teachers? It requires the state to make it more explicit.

Sir Jim Rose: That is a very good question. I asked 300 trainee teachers who had taught them to text. The answer was, “Nobody. We taught each other.” There is a movement going on out there, and young people are driving forward in a way that will make them ICT competent—well beyond our experience as adults. However, we have to handle all that sensitively and intelligently.

I certainly feel that this whole business of communication is a broad resource. For instance, when I listen to my seven-year-old grandson using a cell phone and the rest of it, it is astonishing to me that it is all part and parcel of life. There is no wonder at the buttons being pressed and so on. We haven’t missed the message in schools, but we certainly did not do anything like enough on that side of things—actually getting children to find a voice.

Q156Caroline Flint: Why would teachers not think that important? As well as being able to read, a child should be able to get up and read aloud in front of a group—perhaps an essay—or to communicate. I am not saying that it does not happen in schools, because I have seen it, but I know of schools where the challenge is enormous, with children having very few words in their vocabulary. Those children have not developed the general skills of speaking to be able to do that. The public find it hard to understand that the subject is not covered in teacher training. It is a foundation skill to be used in the subject-based areas of history, geography and so on.

Sir Jim Rose: You do not get to that by just saying it, I’m afraid. You are absolutely right that we are now well-researched. There are significant numbers of children who come in with impoverished language, and something has to be done about that. In a rich curriculum of the kind that we are talking about, and certainly in the early years foundation, that has been a big emphasis.

Sue Barratt: Initial teacher training needs to address that problem, too.

John McIntosh: It does. I agree to some extent, but it goes back to what I was saying earlier. We have to push the responsibility for this back to the teaching profession by allowing it to develop professionally in a way that it not happening. We have gone through a phrase when teachers and adults—it is not just teachers—have been reluctant to tell children what they have to do and correct them when they get things wrong. I was once part of a debate at the National Association for the Teaching of English, and we were told that we have no right to correct children’s speech: “What right do we have to impose middle-class patterns of speech on these children?” That was from a professor of English at London university. Of course, his own child did not need correcting, and when he went up to an interview at a university, he would do very well, thank you very much. But the child from the local estate, who was not corrected, would be seriously disadvantaged.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Sadly, to be fair, we have got hardly 25 minutes left, and I just will not be able to call everyone.

Q157Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): The Select Committee report on a national curriculum found that there was no consensus on the need to reform the nature and, particularly, the management of the national curriculum. Typically, the debate, as has been followed today, is about the nature of the national curriculum—different political fads and different powers take charge and change subjects and the nature of the curriculum. It is the management of the curriculum—the inexorable rise in mass and prescription, whoever is in power—that is the threat, is it not? Is there anything in the Bill—I cannot see it—that will stop a Government of whatever hue interfering and sending papers daily to schools that demoralise teachers, disempower heads and remove the sense of professional empowerment? That is the real secret that we need to embed in our schools.

John McIntosh: Absolutely. As far as I can see, there is nothing like that in the Bill. In fact, the Bill entrenches the current legislation and make matters worse. That is my complaint about the Bill—it adds no value and, if anything, makes matters far worse.

Q158Mr. Stuart: Sue, you are extremely enthusiastic about the Bill. The Select Committee suggested that to stop whoever was in power—we are sitting here, trying to make ourselves useful, so we pull on the levers that we have—we should have a five-year cycle. It seems to me that if a new idea was in the tabloids—if it was the story of the week in the Mail or The Sun—the Secretary of State could, under the Bill, issue another order in a couple of weeks’ time and get himself a positive headline. Would you like to see changes to stop that happening?

Sue Barratt: There is a recommendation in Sir Jim’s report that I thoroughly agree with. The curriculum should be reviewed as a whole, not piecemeal. That should be done in a certain time that is denoted. That would be far better. We would have it straight throughout; we would know that it was coming; and it could be done. There is something in the Bill—I cannot find it now—that should stop the plethora of initiatives coming into schools; it says so in here.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

They always do so, but they do not put it into the law. Every Secretary of State has said that, but none of them has followed it.

Sue Barratt: Yes, that is what I would like to see—a date when the curriculum would be reviewed, but right across, so that we have continuity, coming right from early years through to secondary.

Q159Mr. Stuart: Would the three witnesses support the Select Committee’s proposal that there should be a five-year cycle, in between which Ministers would not be able to endlessly change the national curriculum?

Sir Jim Rose: I think that I have made that point in the report. Some of the first things that I said was, whatever we do, it has to be made more manageable. It is in the remit letter, which addresses teachers as much as anything else. It is important to consider whether the draft programmes of learning have struck the right balance between prescription of essential content and manageability for the primary teachers and the school. That is in the remit letter.

Q160Mr. Stuart: Does the Bill need to change?

Sir Jim Rose: Well, there is a need, in my view, to step back. We are taking something as large and essential for  our children’s education as the curriculum, among the three things that support a successful learner—good parenting, good teaching and good curriculum, which are the three things that we are trying to secure.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Ceidwadwyr, Beverley and Holderness

Is that a yes? You suggest that Ministers should amend the Bill.

Sir Jim Rose: There should be some agreed cycle, where we do not do it by piecemeal arrangements, but carry it through.

Sue Barratt: And schools should know when that cycle is going to be.

John McIntosh: I certainly agree to that, yes. I would, as you would have gathered, go a lot further than that.

Q161The Minister for Schools and Learners (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Assuming that this new curriculum arrangement becomes law, what do you think will need to be done to prepare teachers and primary schools, so that it has the smoothest and best possible introduction? Could Jim, Sue and John say something about that?

Sir Jim Rose: First, we have always had a continuing issue with what you might, these days, call continuous professional development, and it is the same with any profession. You do not just learn your trade in the training period; you go out with L-plates and you get better. You need to have the nourishment of professional development; that is true across the board. We have an enormous commitment to helping teachers to get better, if I can put it that way.

In that respect, we can get ICT to work a darn site harder for us. Where there is subject impoverishment in a school—nobody there knows how to teach music or knows a great deal about science—we could help through ICT, and a lot is being done on that. You can take what people these days call learning platforms virtually off the web and adapt them to your purposes. To some extent, you will be able to help through those means, although you will probably never be as good as a trained music specialist or foreign language specialist.

Whatever resources are available to us in the future, limited though they might be, we should prioritise those areas where we feel that the need is greatest. We should certainly not give up for one moment on being extremely vigilant on the basics, continually foregrounding them, so that primary schools are able to defend themselves against being overwhelmed. Teaching things such as reading, writing, basic maths and all the rest well is very time-consuming and extremely reliant on good planning. We have to make sure that these realities are recognised.

Sue Barratt: May I also come in? Looking at it from a head teacher’s point of view, heads will obviously be looking for guidance from bodies such as the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, QCDA and the Training and Development Agency for Schools. We would be looking for them and Ofsted to work together, so that they would tell us with the same voice what they expected from the primary curriculum and would give us guidance and help.

Q162Mr. Gibb: Why do you need all this guidance?

Sue Barratt: To be fair, we are all at different levels. Not all heads and teachers throughout the country are the same. We have very new heads, heads who struggle  and heads who are absolutely fine and who will not need any guidance, but there are those who will. You have got to accept that. We want a good education for all our children.

Q163Mr. Gibb: You complain about prescription and then you clamour for more guidance from state bodies. It is just contradictory.

Sue Barratt: I am not actually saying written guidance.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

May I just intervene for a moment? The Minister was putting the questions, and we must keep good order. You have had one response, Minister.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

I think that Sue was in the middle of giving a response, to which I was listening.

Sue Barratt: There is a series of NCSL conferences that heads can go to if they need some guidance. There are also handbooks coming out from the QCDA, so there are a lot of things there. The national strategies are also preparing some information for us. I understand—I hope—that we have been given a teacher day from September 2010, so that we as heads can work with our schools on the curriculum that we want and that will best suit our schools.

John McIntosh: You paint the worst-case scenario, with these measures going through unamended. You must bear it in mind that as a head—certainly for the past five or six years of my service—I have seen my principal task as protecting my teachers from a lot of the stuff coming out of the various agencies, so I am slightly cynical about it all.

First, I would ask that you as politicians bear in mind that a lot of your good intentions are mediated through agencies and civil servants at the Department. I suspect that a lot of what arrives down at schools, which has been mediated through the various agencies, is very different from what Ministers intend when they first propose the legislation. I think that is a very serious issue. I have found over the years—not just with the current Government—when speaking to politicians about what they intended, that even they have been surprised at what has finished up on the desks of heads at the end of the day. I would ask you to ensure that your good intentions are not distorted through that mediation system.

The other thing is that you would remind heads and teachers—and their governing bodies, of course, but on a day-to-day basis, we are talking about heads—that they are responsible at the end of the day for the curriculum and that they are required to meet the statutory requirements of the orders, although that does not mean that they should follow the statutory orders as a template for their curriculum. In designing their curriculum, they should ensure that they cover the statutory requirements, but you are not suggesting that how the requirements are laid out in the Bill should provide the template for the curriculum. We have got to get back to making heads, supported by their governing bodies, responsible for the curriculum.

Sue Barratt: I do not disagree with that. In addition to being a head, I am also chair of the Implementation Review Unit, on which we monitor all bureaucracy coming down into schools. We are at present doing a review of all the obstacles to delivery, which come down  from policies that come from the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the intermediary bodies. We shall be watching the implementation of both the primary curriculum and other things from the White Paper very carefully indeed.

Q164Mr. Coaker: Thank you for those answers. I think that the use of more specialists in primary schools, as all of you alluded to, is something that we shall all have to see how we can do right across all the various areas.

May I go on to another area of discussion: the age at which children start school, the debate on the relationship between early years foundation stage and key stage 1, how children are taught and the relationship between play-based learning, enjoyment and fun, and more formal learning? It is an interesting debate, which generates a lot of views. I wonder whether you have a view, between you, about the relationship between the early years foundation stage and the beginning of key stage 1, and the pedagogy around all that. What do we think about that—what the age is and what the relationship is between that and how children are taught?

Sir Jim Rose: We have a whole chapter devoted to that, as you know. We were asked to do specific things within it, such as looking at, for example, the writing goals and whether things were being well and truly tailored. The big question that we are looking at here is how the curriculum should change as children develop through the primary years, actually starting pre-school. Very often, it is forgotten that the deal is done in early years as far as the importance of play is concerned.

There has always been a strong voice in this country—in fact, it has got stronger as a result of these reviews—about the purpose and place of play and what that should mean in the early years. Of course, that is why the early years foundation stage is structured very largely as it is. It is a totally false dichotomy, actually, to think that that is in any way unsympathetic to what we are looking for thereafter.

The issue of course is how to deal with some of the tricky issues within it, such as relative age. So we know that summer-born children clearly find it more difficult if the provision is not appropriate for them, because of the distance that they have not yet travelled. We tried to do the best we could with that in the report. It is a matter of what the children do in the school when they get there, it seems to me, and of teachers recognising that in any given incoming group, there will be variation, among which the vulnerable will be the summer-born. They need to know which children in front of them are summer born. They might then be able to think through much more carefully what they should offer in that play-based programme.

Within all that, we then begin to move forward on things such as that—I will come back to language, because it is clearly very important—and mathematics in how we make it palatable for young children. There is tremendous scope in the early years for paving the way for things that will take place in year 1. The criticism that we are getting is that there is a much sharper cliff face when children move from reception to year 1, because play suddenly disappears and teachers begin to concentrate on end of key stage standard assessment tests. They no longer exist in the form in which we first had them, but nevertheless, schools feel constrained to ensure that that is done, and done particularly well.

The argument is that a lot of children suffer as a result of that rather sharp difference. Therefore, should we extend play into key stage 1? The argument, again, draws on European experience and all the rest of it: the Finns go that way, and the Swedes. I had an interesting seminar with the Swedes last Friday. We also got the Finnish curriculum, to see what goes on there.

We need to watch the sleight of hand. It is not always, as it seems—that nothing is done before the age of six or seven to prepare children for school in those countries. All the time, a great deal is done. It is done on the basis of well-conceived play programmes that lead significantly into learning. That is probably a lesson that we can pick up on.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

May I have Tim Loughton’s question, immediately followed by Mr. Timpson’s?

Q165Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): A quick question: if PSHE is not made a statutory subject, why would head teachers not want its healthy living elements to be part of other subjects, as we have heard described, as part of more formalised, extended schools or by arrangement with outside voluntary bodies, for example?

John McIntosh: I think that they would. I am not suggesting that they would not. In fact, I think that I said that I would expect a good school already to include most of it, but not as a discrete subject. I am not quibbling with that.

Sue Barratt: I agree. We do that at the moment. Ours is dispersed throughout the Bournville curriculum.

Q166Tim Loughton: So we do not need to make it a statutory subject, as the Bill would do. Is that the view of all of you?

John McIntosh: That is my view.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

Yes, but is it the view of the other two witnesses?

Sir Jim Rose: Sorry, I am not quite clear what is being said here.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

Well, the Bill will put on a statutory footing the inclusion of PSHE subjects on a formal basis. Given that we have had evidence that it already features in the curriculum—

Sir Jim Rose: Yes, but—

Q167Tim Loughton: In your own example, Sir Jim, of the British Museum programme, almost half the elements of the PSHE requirements in the Bill were contained in a 15-minute radio programme about an upper palaeolithic hand axe in the third part of the series. That would have been taught in any decent school as part of a history lesson and informed half the requirements that, according to the Bill, we must now put on a statutory basis. Do you agree with that, and can you say why?

Sir Jim Rose: I agree that we should define the content. What I say in my review—this is paragraph 40—is that how schools choose to organise their curriculum and timetable will remain a matter for them. You can take the ingredients of PSHE and put them where you  will. I would like to see—I am sure it is going to happen—a lot of PSHE in understanding physical development, health and well-being. I would also like to see some of it coming through the science and technology side. This is, I think, going to be one of the big advantages of that way of working. They will be able, as I am hearing from all sides, to make that essential choice, according to their circumstances, about how to organise things.

Q168Tim Loughton: Why can they not do that already? I do not understand why we need the Bill to make happen what is happening already in good schools, and what any decent head would want to happen in any case without the legislation.

Sir Jim Rose: Do you want it to happen in all schools without fail?

Q169Tim Loughton: I want heads running all schools to want it to happen as part of the way they teach because they are good teachers and are giving their pupils a good learning experience, without having to be shackled and to make compromises with other parts of the curriculum.

Sir Jim Rose: Okay. This is the tug of war we always have, isn’t it? If we go back to pre-national curriculum days, which I lived through as a primary head in two schools, there is no doubt that the argument that Jim Callaghan, in the speech at Ruskin college, and then Kenneth Baker took up on the national curriculum was right. In primary schools, there was far too much plateauing, with no real sense of direction, when it came to that awful stuff called topic work. That is not what we are suggesting under this arrangement. That is why I have called it cross-curricular studies, underlining studies. It is a totally different model and one that will take us from early years to secondary level, giving, I hope, optimum freedom, but you cannot have total freedom unless you want to revert to what we had prior to a national curriculum. You either agree that children are entitled to certain things country-wide—nationwide—or not. I just think that we should agree there is an entitlement—we call it a national curriculum—and try to spell it out in ways that are helpful to schools.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

May we now have questions from Mr. Timpson, followed by Martin Linton and then Annette Brooke? We can see how little time there is left.

Q170Mr. Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): The Government response to the Select Committee’s report on the national curriculum states:

“Limiting the statutory curriculum requirement to the core subjects allows Academies to focus on the basics and to tailor the content of the wider curriculum to the needs of...pupils.”

That was a response to a recommendation by the cross-party Select Committee that the freedoms that academies enjoy in relation to the national curriculum should be extended to all maintained schools. Do you have any difficulty with substituting the word “primaries” for “academies”?

John McIntosh: Would you like me to answer first? Your question is slightly rhetorical, I suspect. I agree with the tenor of it. I do not know why academies should be singled out for different treatment, by which I mean that I think the rest of the schools in the maintained  system should be treated in the same way. If it is good enough for academies, I do not see why it is not good enough for the other schools.

I will also say—I know I am slightly repeating myself and trailing my coat on this—that 7 per cent. of children in this country, who are among the highest-achieving pupils in the country, are not subject to the national curriculum, because they are in independent schools. The teachers in independent schools provide a rich, broad curriculum for their pupils, and their pupils achieve excellent results, without a national curriculum. Apparently, from what you have just said, academies are expected more or less to do the same thing, without the same statutory framework. I do not see why that cannot be extended to all schools.

If I have one moment to go one step further, my own view on the national curriculum is that I would take it out of primary legislation. I would make it a code of practice and I would give Ofsted the power to force schools that are not performing properly and do not have an adequate curriculum to use the provisions of that code of practice, but I would leave the other schools that are performing well and whose pupils are achieving well the autonomy to do what they want. That seems to me to be the way round this issue.

Sir Jim Rose: I think that we are all out for the same ends; the issue is how you get there. Frankly, I still think that it is important to make sure that we do define a core curriculum and give the profession as much authority as possible to decide what happens in the way in which they teach it, and additionality, if you like, beyond the national curriculum.

Q171Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): I want to ask Jim Rose about his conversations with the Finns and the Swedes about the transition from foundation stage to primary level. Does he agree that the evidence from Finland and Sweden is that they start formal education later, yet have better outcomes at the age of 11 and certainly 13? Does he draw the conclusion that we in this country finish learning through play and start formal education at too early a stage? Would he agree with my conclusion, as a governor of a nursery school, that the reason for that is that learning through play teaches children to enjoy going to school? That enjoyment, if it can be sustained in primary school, will affect the whole of their receptivity to education, whereas starting formal education too early turns them off education and gives them a negative attitude towards it.

Sir Jim Rose: It all turns on what is meant by formal. When talking with the Scandinavians, it seems to me, certainly with work that I have seen in Denmark, that there is a bit of a sleight of hand. If one looks at what goes on in nursery-level education there, things are being started that we would recognise as more informal, but which are definitely directed towards a learning goal.

If you take, for example, a group of young children in a nursery, and look at their reaction to a really well-told story, you will generally find that—if it is done well, and a bit of drama, or puppets or whatever is brought into it—they are so engrossed that their language leap forward is palpable. It is observable. You get that sort of interaction again with music and the arts. All of that does not seem to be a label that fits, but that is actually what is happening. The same ingredients are being used to  stimulate children’s interest, and certainly to get the social interaction that you are talking about, which is absolutely fundamental in the early years.

We are looking through different eyes at some of this. I use Sure Start as a starting point, but how do we build forward from there? Let us not get hung up on what is formal and informal; let us look at it in terms of the developmental pattern that we want to see served by whatever curriculum we can devise to get children moving forward progressively, and no holds barred. Those who need more help with spoken language are going to get it. Those who are racing ahead will also be well-served.

Q172Martin Linton: But the fact that the Finns and the Swedes have quite a high educational content in their nursery provision, up to the age of 7, does not invalidate that point but rather strengthens it.

Sir Jim Rose: Well, yes, but it does not necessarily mean that we cannot do it in our own way. We have to look very hard at year 1, and think in terms of whether there is that sharp cliff face between what goes on before, and the sudden change. Someone said to me the other day, “My child comes home, he is only in year 1 and has all these worksheets. He is fed up with it.”

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Colleagues, I regret intervening but there are two minutes left. Annette Brooke has been waiting patiently with the last question.

Q173Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I would like to question the panel about the Alexander review. If there is to be a change, we want to be assured that we are going in the right direction. My understanding is that the Alexander review focuses  more on specialist teaching, and I wonder if the panel could comment on that and whether we have the right mix here in front of us.

Sir Jim Rose: I do not think there is any difference between what Robin Alexander is saying about specialist teaching and what I am saying. We would both advocate properly structured specialist teaching for primary schools where it can be provided. The communality between his report and mine is that both of us—he calls them domains, but they are areas of learning, however they are looked at. There is a good deal of cross-curricularity in what is being suggested.

That review is not the same as mine in terms of its scope. I was not looking at the whole of primary education in the way that Robin would say he is, which is really a re-run of the Plowden report—I think that is where it starts from in the way it is described.

John McIntosh: I would not comment on the Alexander report as a whole, but as far as specialist teaching in primary schools is concerned, it is a very serious issue that we need to tackle, especially in mathematics, arithmetic or numeracy—whatever you would like to call it at that level.

Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Ceidwadwyr, Southend West

Sadly I must intervene. On behalf of the Committee, I extend a big thank you to our witnesses for the time you have spent with us this morning. Your contributions have been most valuable in terms of our deliberations on the Bill when we examine it line by line.

The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.