Other posts in this series:
- 10 things you might not have realised about the new Primary Maths curriculum
- 5 things you might not have realised about the new Primary Science curriculum
- 10 words on the foundation subjects
Having yesterday posted a very brief comment on Twitter about connectives, I’ve finally got around to writing a post that’s been at the back of my mind for a while. Aimed really at secondary English teachers, it may well be of use to primary colleagues and others. Let me state from the off that I’m not trying to tell anybody how to do their job; I just think that the more we share knowledge and understanding between the two sectors, the less likely we are to fail the children who make the move between us.
So here we go: ten things that secondary colleagues might not be aware of.
1. English is back.
Strictly speaking, it never went away, but for over 15 years now, the label ‘Literacy’ seems to have stuck in primary schools. Some of us have been fighting this battle for a while, but slowly and surely the subject name is returning to its proper use. Happily, the even less likeable ‘Numeracy’ label seemed to die off much more quickly.
2. Speaking & Listening is … confused.
Most primary teachers will attest to the importance of speaking and listening. However, the new National Curriculum doesn’t offer much clarity on this. The statutory document offers 86 pages on the primary English Curriculum. Spoken language gets one page – and just 12 objectives across the whole of KS1 and KS2.
3. Grammar matters.
If grammar is not your thing, then it’s time to start brushing up: grammar is back in a big way in the new curriculum. I met many a Year 7 child who couldn’t confidently identify nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs; now that content should be taught to Year 2. By Year 6 children are expected to have learned about noun phrases, relative clauses and even the subjunctive form (although that’s likely to be limited to common phrases in many cases, I’m sure).
4. Connectives are out.
I’ve never quite understood why the label ‘connective’ so easily took hold. It seemed to be introduced by the Literacy Strategy, which itself contained a clear definition of the difference between conjunctions and other connectives, yet somehow we ended up with one ‘job lot’ label. The class of ‘conjunction’ is now to be taught in Year 3 (along with preposition, followed by pronouns and determiners in Year 4), so there is really no excuse for the vague labelling any longer.
5. Class Readers are back.
I’ve always loathed the Guided Reading carousel approach that was brought in by the Literacy strategy: twenty minutes is no time to do anything. Now the curriculum is quite explicit that children should have access to reading experiences including the reading aloud of whole books at a higher level of challenge than their own decoding ability.
6. Spelling may improve.
The expectations of spelling in the new curriculum are significantly higher than in the past. Many words that secondary English teachers will recognise from the Y7 Spelling Bank word lists (actually, business, caught, decide) now appear in the required lists for Year 3 and 4. Year 5/6 children are expected to be taught words such as mischievous and profession. Of course, things won’t change overnight – but hopefully things may improve in the coming years.
7. Authorial Intent is clearer.
One of the reasons I think primary schools have long struggled to get children anywhere near reaching Level 6 in reading (aside from the fact that it has always been too easy to get Level 5 in KS2) has been the lack of teaching of authorial intent. Most primary teaching has focussed on the old AFs 2 and 3 – retrieval and inference/deduction. Now the teaching of the craft of the author is much more explicit, particularly in upper Key Stage 2. (Beware: PEE will spread through primaries like a rash in the next year or two)
8. Text types are on the wane.
Another of the Literacy strategy’s legacies is the endless treadmill of text types being taught in primary. Schools crow-barred in umpteen different ‘genres’ or text types each term in an effort to complete the set. None of those are specified any longer, and schools now have the freedom (which personally I hope they’ll use) to focus on fewer types in more depth.
9. Poetry is popular.
In the past, much of primary poetry has been about simple forms (limericks, haiku) or dreadful things like shape poetry. Although these won’t go away, there is now a much clearer expectation (probably driven by Gove himself) that children should be introduced to more published poetry, and – from as young as age 5 – should be learning to recite some poems by heart.
10. It’ll all take a while to filter through.
If you thought picking up children from different feeder schools was tricky before, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. The new curriculum has been rushed (much like the changes at secondary) and too little time has been given over to preparing teachers and schools. Those that were on the ball started making changes two years ago; others may only now really be waking up to the new demands. Expect to see some wide variation, particularly in newer aspects of the curriculum such as grammar and poetry. But who knows, maybe in a few years’ time you’ll be able to more reliably predict the knowledge your children will arrive with. Maybe.
Secondary teachers may find it informative to take a glance through the expectations of the new primary curriculum. You can find it all set out by year group at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk