As a new national curriculum is launched, a teaching union says the number of changes could lead to “meltdown” in schools.
A controversial new national curriculum that puts the emphasis on building a strong knowledge base has been unveiled.
The Government says the slimmed-down document will set out only the “essential knowledge that all children should acquire”, leaving teachers free to tailor the rest of their lessons.
David Cameron hailed the reforms as a “revolution in education” and Education Secretary Michael Gove told Sky News the curriculum would be “more rigorous and more relevant”
But critics warned the timeframe and lack of resources to prepare for the shake-up would lead to classroom “chaos” and that pupils would be forced to learn endless lists of facts.
The changes, which will affect primary and secondary schools in England, are due to come into force in September 2014 but schools will start introducing elements sooner.
They will apply to children aged five to 14, although secondary academies can opt out.
Pupils will start learning about fractions in their first year of education and primary schools will be expected to give lessons on evolution and computer programming.
History and design and technology (D&T) will see the biggest rewrites because of concerns about the draft syllabuses of the subjects.
Ministers want pupils to learn a complete chronological history of Britain, but primary pupils would only be expected to learn about events up to 1066.
D&T will change after complaints it was too focused on “life skills” like cookery, bike maintenance and gardening than science-based subjects more useful to industry.
Climate change will also reportedly feature explicitly in the geography curriculum after a campaign about the lack of a specific reference to it gathered support.
The Prime Minister said: “The curriculum marks a new chapter in British education. From advanced fractions to computer coding to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language, this is a curriculum that is rigorous engaging and tough.
“As a parent this is exactly the kind of thing I want my children to be learning and as Prime Minister I know this revolution in education is critical for British prosperity in the decades to come.
“This is a curriculum to inspire a generation and it will educate the great British engineers scientists writers and thinkers of the future.”
Mr Gove said: “I have got every confidence that our own children and our teachers are the equal of anyone in the world but we do need a more rigorous and relevant curriculum to help them to achieve everything of which they are capable.”
But Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the Government had “got into an absolute mess” and voiced fears the system would “go into meltdown” because of the number of changes.
“They say they want a slimmed-down curriculum, but then they make key subjects like history, English, maths and science much more prescriptive,” she said.
“But that is not the way you should think about curriculum. You should think about the curriculum as a whole.
“You should think about how maths and English and science are going to inform other subjects and how the other subjects are going to inform practical work in maths, English and science.”
She added: “Michael Gove is risking total chaos in September, with schools unclear about what they need to be planning for.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added: “We need the Government to publish a fully developed implementation plan of how it is going to support schools to achieve all of this in 12 months.
“Our young people shouldn’t be treated as guinea pigs in an educational laboratory.”
Mr Gove insisted: “Given that we have got the best generation of teachers in our classrooms now, I have got every confidence that they will be able to implement this without a hitch.
“It is just a pity that there are one or two union figures who do not have the same confidence in the teaching profession as I do.”
Rachel de Souza, executive principal of Ormiston Victory Academy in Norwich, where teachers have been helping draft parts of the document, said her school was ready to embrace the new curriculum.
“I think some of the educational concepts were outmoded in the old one,” she said.
“One of the real strengths of this new curriculum is its strong focus on knowledge and on what students need to know to give them a real foundation for their future.
“We are doing children a disservice if we don’t teach them the fundamental things about our culture, mathematics and science. With that knowledge they can then go on to ‘think’.”Tags: education