A report for primary schools on the new National Curriculum

A free report for primary schools on the new Primary Mathematics National Curriculum is available here:

The Challenges of Implementing the New Primary National Curriculum

Report Cover

This concise report provides clear information for schools on the content and development of the 2014 Primary National Curriculum.  It focuses in particular on the mathematics curriculum, comparing it with the previous curricula schools have used since 2010 and with respected international curricula.

The report concludes with ten suggestions for schools regarding first steps to take.

7 Replies to “A report for primary schools on the new National Curriculum”

  1. Hi Rebecca

    Thank you for the report, a very thorough job with a lot of thought and effort put in.

    I am in a sense a bystander watching with great interest what is going on here in England where I moved nine years ago from Russia. The educational system my children are in at the moment is very different from what we have in Russia so I admit I might be wrong in my judgement.

    I am mathematician by education and have extensive experience of teaching and tutoring back in Russia so naturally I am interested in how maths is being taught here. I agree that the new maths curriculum reveals disturbing incompetence of its authors who seem to disregard the fundamental laws of children’s cognitive development. I am absolutely convinced that any attempts “to implement” the prescribed curriculum will be unsuccessful. The suggested year-by-year recommendations, as you rightly point out, are inconsistent with the declared goals, and any teacher will notice that soon enough even if they cannot see it straight away. The curriculum is structurally incoherent, and it cannot exist in real life.

    Having said that, I still hope that the potential damage to the children might be overrated. As far as I can see, teachers in England are allowed to be rather flexible and are able to adjust this kind of prescriptions from DfE to the needs of their students. No good teacher would blindly insist that the students must get an idea of one third just from counting in threes, to take a particular example.

    It is certainly wrong that the document of such importance is so obviously unprofessional, but teaching has always been about keeping in mind the interests of the children above all. I hope that the teachers will remain strong enough to mitigate the consequences of having dilettantes at the top of the educational system.

    1. Many thanks for your comment Tatiana.

      Our teachers are experts in taking the strain of poor policy and working to ensure that children are not damaged by it. But there are two very worrying things:
      1. The pressures to implement policy regardless of the consequences have increased dramatically over recent years.
      2. There is still (and always will be) a great deal which could be done to improve the quality of maths teaching in most primary schools, most obviously because excellent teachers retire and new teachers have little training for maths teaching and need support to develop their skills. Dealing with this curriculum will absorb the energy they could be spending wisely on worthwhile initiatives.

      1. hiya rebecca and others.
        I haven’t read this report thoroughly, but what consistently annoys me with all of these “new” curricula (including this and ccss-usa and where i live – all of which seem to have different problems) is that the commissions that put these programs together never include all of the experts involved. Why can’t these panels include childhood learning experts, elementary school teachers, successful math club teachers, high school teachers and engineering math teachers as well as the usual suspects of educational experts, who have never actually taught anything leave alone maths in any classroom and theoretical mathematicians who think everything maths is extremely interesting and thus important at an exact level (currently sick to death of my engineering kids having absolutely no understanding that pi/2, pi/4, … are actually numbers and not just a bunch of letters 🙂 ).

        1. Thank you for your comment Linda. I understand you frustration.

          However our curriculum seems to have been developed by people with no relevant experience whatsoever who have a very simple believe that if you teacher children harder content younger they will do better. They have proactively labelled anyone who’s tried to make it age appropriate as being ‘enemies of progress’ and have attacked them in the press. It now looks like all the comments of those with relevant experience have been ignored. It’s so much worse that the situation you’re experiencing where you curriculum is not as good as it might have been in places.

  2. This is such a useful summary of the pitfalls within the new primary maths curriculum Rebecca -thank you. Looking at recent media coverage of PISA I was struck by the emphasis on concrete learning tools in the South East Asian “winning” education systems and the contrast with the “mental maths is king” curriculum that we have been given. I hope you will be able to find time to do something similar for Secondary Mathematics when the national curriculum for that finally emerges from “consultation”.

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