By Matthew Barrett
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This morning, the Sun on Sunday reported the CBI's frustration at the number of young people leaving education without the skills necessary to hold down a job. The CBI complained about inability to read, write and add up, and pointed to a general culture of educational inadequacy. A CBI survey found that "Six out of ten think primary schools should put most of their efforts into the three Rs."
This coming week will provide a chance for Michael Gove to make a significant improvement to the education system in precisely one of the areas the CBI is concerned about. The new draft Programme of Study for English – the document which plans the English national curriculum – will be released, and it is set to advise a more rigorous approach to spelling and grammar for primary school children. It will also recommend that the study of poetry – learning poems by heart and publicly reciting them – should be an important part of English in primary schools.
The Department for Education is confident that the new curriculum will be far more comprehensive than the status quo, and will demand higher standards from pupils. The draft Programme will focus on the key areas of spelling, grammar, reading, poetry and spoken language. As an example of how the new curriculum will work:
- The current curriculum states that pupils should be taught, by the end of Year 2, to write each letter of the alphabet, use simple spelling patterns, and spell common words. In the new curriculum, by the end of Year 2, children will be taught contractions, homophones and possessive apostrophes, and the spelling of more complex words.
- With grammar, the current curriculum says that pupils need, by the end of primary school, to know such things as the "purposes and organisational features of paragraphs and how ideas can be linked”. The Department for Education says the new curriculum will be far more demanding.
- The new curriculum will seek to place a much stronger emphasis on the enjoyment of reading. At present, pupils at the end of Year 6 should be able to "express preferences and support their views by reference to texts; read stories, poems and plays aloud". Under the new curriculum, pupils at the end of Year 4 will have similar skills.
Academically capable children are vital if Britain is to attempt to compete with economies like Germany, as well as the emerging economies. Michael Gove is one of the success stories of the Coalition, and this plan to get English children learning a more rigorous education programme should be applauded as a step to arrest Britain's competitive decline.