Tag Archives: primary curriculum

5 things you might not have realised about the new Primary Science curriculum

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I always feel sorry for Science. A core subject by name, but always the poor relation in the core triad. They do say, two’s company… Anyhow, hot on the heels of my posts about English and Maths, it seems only fair to give Science its turn, although as if to emphasise the point, it only gets 5 main points. The first explains why.

1. Not that much has changed really.

One of the saving graces of the focus on English and Maths is that you get the feeling that the Science team were left to get on with things without so much ministerial interference. The result is that most of the changes to primary Science are reorganisations of existing content, with some things moving year group, and quite a bit being removed from KS1 to save repetition.

2. Evolution is in.

This one worries me slightly. Evolution is a tricky concept to get your head round, and I sometimes wonder if some of our 10-year-olds might lack the sense of scale required to understand the impact of minute changes over massive periods of time. I fear we might see plenty of children arriving at secondary school with the misconception that animals chose to adapt their features over time. Neverthless, it appears as statutory content aimed at Year 6, so expect to see evidence of it coming to a school near you soon.

3. ‘Factors’ will take a while to kill off.

A few years ago the official vocabulary of primary tests was changed from using ‘factors’ to ‘variables’ to describe… well… variables. Then they scrapped the tests and so the importance of the change was rather lost on the sector. The new curriculum does refer to variables, but expect it to take a while to train thousands of primary teachers out of old habits.

4. They might learn about scientific history.

But they might not. There are lots of mentions in the non-statutory notes about finding out about the likes of scientists from Copernicus to David Attenborough and the significance and impact of their work, but it’s not really mentioned in any of the statutory content. Some schools will go to town on such things; others will ignore them.

5. Good luck ascertaining their ability!

Until relatively recently, for all their flaws, secondary schools could receive nationally-assessed data about the pupils’ abilities in Science based on the national tests. Then when they were scrapped, transition information was limited to the more questionable Teacher Assessment levels. From 2016 even they will have gone. The latest proposal for Teacher Assessment was a simple “Yes/No” statement as to whether or not a child had met the national expectations. There is no official way to identify the highest fliers or those most in need of support. And even those descriptors haven’t been finalised, so watch this space!


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

10 things you might not have realised about the new Primary Maths curriculum

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Having produced a list of key changes for Primary English aimed at secondary English teachers, I thought it was worthwhile creating a similar list for Maths. It strikes me that the maths changes have been more widely publicised (perhaps because they’re easier for the press to understand), but there may be one or two things here that have slipped people’s attention.

1. Mental Arithmetic has lost its hallowed place.

From 2016 there will no longer be a mental arithmetic test in Key Stage 2. Instead, a written arithmetic test has been added both for 7- and 11-year-olds. It’s not really clear yet what difference this might make to outcomes, as the increased focus on knowledge of number facts may make up for it, but it will certainly lead to a change in the tests that are practised throughout Year 6.

2. Written methods are set in stone.

Many secondary colleagues will welcome this, as I would have done when I was teaching KS3. No longer will there be a free-for-all on methods used for standard calculations. The expectations of the curriculum clearly set out that by Y6 all children should be taught the standard written methods of column addition & subtraction, and short and long multiplication and division. In fact, on the written arithmetic test, where questions imply the long methods of multiplication or division, no method marks will be available if any other method is used.

3. History becomes cross-curricular.

After years of trying to crow-bar maths into History, the historians have got their own back. Now at primary school pupils must be taught about Roman numerals into the thousands, conversions between imperial and metric measures, and to know an approximate factor to convert between miles and kilometres.

4. And calculators are history!

For the past few years, calculator tests have been restricted to the highest-attaining pupils aiming for level 6. As the extension papers are removed, there will no longer be any calculator test at KS2, and so the already small amount of calculator-use teaching will quickly diminish.

5. The averages confusion may dissipate.

One of the trials of Year 7 often used to be trying to unravel the confusion between mode, median and mean averages. Perhaps in an effort to avoid such misconceptions, only the latter is expected to be taught at primary level now. Of course, primary teachers love a mnemonic rhyme, so it may still crop up in many classrooms.

6. Probability is gone.

It was always a slightly odd feature of primary maths, given that the expectations for level 5 in probability were quite limited. As such, it was often an easy way of gathering evidence or picking up marks to imply the higher level where perhaps it wasn’t justified. That problem disappears now as probability disappears from the KS2 curriculum.

7. Fractions are very much there.

In the old attainment descriptors, all a child had to do to with fractions to reach level 4 was to use simple fractions to describe approximate proportions of a whole. In the new curriculum, that’s expected in lower Key Stage 2. By year 6, to reach the new expected standard pupils will be expected to become more confident with addition and subtraction of fractions along with a range of other fraction skills. Expect the bar model slowly to gain currency here. But very slowly.

8. They still won’t be able to draw graphs

As a Year 7 maths teacher, I once complained to Y6 colleagues that children seemed to have no idea about how to construct a basic set of axes to plot a graph. The explanation was, of course, that it would never occur on a test. That remains the case, and in fact the new curriculum focuses most of its statistics attention on interpreting rather than presenting data. There is some mention of plotting graphs in the (untested) Science curriculum.

9. Some things have been left until later

There’s been a lot of hype about things being moved earlier (tables secure by Y4, etc). But there’s also a whole vat of content in the new Year 6 maths curriculum. Much of it is is familiar; some represents the new higher expectations – including introductory algebra for everyone. But in addition, there are some elements that previously were more spread across the Key Stage. Ratio hardly gets a look-in before Year 6, yet in the Year 6 Programme of Study pupils will be expected to solve ratio and proportion problems.

10. Nobody’s too sure about the ‘mastery’ thing

The word has become almost ubiquitous, and yet seems to mean different things to every user. In some schools, mastery has become a descriptor for the highest-attainment pupils, in others it relates to the old Ma1 Problem-solving type tasks almost exclusively. In essence, don’t put too much weight on any judgement a school makes about mastery – they may not mean what you think they do! (I have written about this in some more detail on the Rising Stars blog)


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

Primary Curriculum Resource Pack

Over the past year I have tried to create and collate resources which might be useful for primary schools rolling out the new curriculum. Many of these have been shared on this blog, and also on my www.primarycurriculum.me.uk website.

To try to make it easier for schools and teachers to get the key resources, I have now compiled the 12 main documents into a single download. The zip-file pack contains:

Jigsaws

  • Curriculum overview for Years 1 to 6 for all subjects
  • Blank Word Document template for schools to create their own jigsaws (perhaps to share with parents on their websites)

Changes Document

  • A detailed booklet breaking down the changes in each of the core subjects by year group, comparing learning objectives against the primary frameworks for English and Maths, and the QCA plans for Science.

Progression documents

  • One document each for Reading, Writing and Maths showing all the National Curriculum objectives organised into strands and across year groups so teachers can see a clear progression in each area.

Key Objective booklets

  • One booklet each for Reading, Writing and Maths showing key objectives for each year group (ranging from 15 to 30 objectives per year group). These are intended to help make assessment and tracking more manageable.

Assessment tracking grids

  • One spreadsheet each for Reading, Writing and Maths allowing teachers to track progress against the key objectives for each year group, and presenting clear colour-coded indications of attainment across the cohort.

The full pack of resources can be downloaded from here:

New Primary Curriculum Resource Pack (approximately 5MB)

files

New Primary Curriculum: Collected Articles

Download the booklet and please share freely

Download the booklet and
please share freely

Over the last year I have put together several posts on this blog which have hopefully supported some schools in preparing for the new curriculum. However, I’m becoming increasingly aware of how many schools and school leaders are not yet at all engaged with Twitter and blogging and so are not really accessing such things.

In an effort to reach that wider audience (and maybe bring a few more teachers & leaders online) I have compiled a short booklet containing four of what I think are the most useful blogs I’ve written about the new primary curriculum, and some signposts for other information.

Please, do encourage people to share the link to this page, or to download the booklet and email it on to others, or even to print out copies to share if it’s convenient!

You can download by clicking the image, or directly from this link:

Preparing for the new curriculum booklet

Headline changes for the Primary Curriculum

Following on from my previous post about what doesn’t need to change for the new curriculum, I thought it might be equally useful to consider the main areas where considerable change is needed. After all, it is often these big areas of change which will require most work in schools when it comes to planning, resourcing and professional development. Some of this information may be a useful starting point for subject leaders.

Inevitably a short blog post cannot cover everything, so I recommend looking at other resources for more detail, such as the core subject breakdowns at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support and foundation subject comparisons at curriculum2014.wordpress.com amongst others.

Not all foundation subjects are included here, as they require relatively little change (see previous blog)

English

There are a couple of substantial changes of focus in the programmes of study which affect the two key stages in turn. Firstly, there is very clear and unequivocal expectation, particularly in KS1, that children will be taught to read using phonic approaches. The teaching order of some elements is set out quite clearly, and the focus of the reading strands is very much on decoding. This will not be that new to many schools, but certainly bears noting.

Similarly, in KS2, the focus on grammatical language and structures is substantially more notable than the 1999 curriculum, with far higher expectations of metalanguage. We can reasonably expect a greater emphasis on SPAG testing from 2016 onwards. I suspect the teacher assessment of Writing may become incidental.

Spelling patterns to be taught in each phase are clearly set out, and the expectations are high in this area.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Does the current programme for teaching spelling fit the new requirements?
  • How does staff subject knowledge support the teaching of new grammar specification?

Mathematics

Although much has been made of changes in maths, much of it is a rearrangement of content, with data largely slimmed down, and some objectives moved down through the year groups to fill that gap. Most schools will already be aware of the expectation that tables (to 12×12) are learned by the end of Year 4.

Some of the most notable increases in expectations are in the area of fractions and decimals, with expectations by the end of KS1 including finding fractions of quantities, and those for the end of KS2 covering skills previously taught at Y7+ such as carrying out all 4 operations with fractions, and the ability to convert a fraction to a decimal. Some of this may require further mathematics development for staff, as may the introduction of formal algebra in Y6.

Calculation policies will also come under scrutiny as the balance changes. Again, most schools are now aware that calculators will not be required for the main KS2 tests. However, some of the more significant changes are in terms of expectations for methods. There is a clear expectation that formal written methods (column addition/subtraction, short & long multiplication/division) will be taught during KS2, and again we should expect assessments to reflect that.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Is there a need to review calculation policies to reflect the new curriculum?
  • How well-equipped is the school for teaching the new expectations in fractions? (including teacher subject knowledge)

Science

The changes in Science are by far the least notable among the core subjects. Some new content is required, including the teaching of evolution in Year 6. Other than this, most content remains broadly similar, with minor changes of content between year groups and key stages. For more detail, see the core curriculum changes document at www.primarycurriculum.me.uk/support

Computing

This has been one of the most widely publicised and talked about changes, and so many schools are already beginning to prepare for the changes. As mentioned in the previous blog, the changes are not as overwhelming as they might first appear, but there is clearly a renewed emphasis on areas which we might previously have considered to be “control technology”, with an expectation that all students will be introduced to some form of programming in KS1 and KS2.

Expect a boom in sales of roamers, and for Scratch to become a staple unit of work in KS2.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • How does the balance of control and applied ICT work need to be altered?
  • What investment is needed in resources to support the new control requirements?

Design & Technology

After a radical first draft back in February, the final version of the D&T curriculum is actually not that different from what was previously in place. The main change for primary schools is the new statutory requirement for cooking to be included. Where schools don’t have full kitchen facilities that could present some real challenges.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • What food-related units of work do we already have, and do they meet any of the new NC criteria?
  • What cooking techniques can we tackle given the facilities in place?

Geography

Arguably, Geography is the subject where the programme of study is least recognisable in comparison to its previous form. There is a substantial re-balancing in favour of acquiring knowledge about places with clear guidance on the expected locations to be taught. For many schools they will already be covering many of these areas. However, some teams may need to consider a new unit covering an area of the Americas in KS2. There are also some more specific expectations about aspects of human and physical geography to be taught, which may need to be addressed in existing or new units of work, including elements such as trade links and land use.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing units of work meet the requirements to study the UK and a non-European country (KS1) and the UK, Europe and the Americas (KS2)?
  • How can existing units of work be adapted to incorporate new areas of knowledge, especially relating to physical and human geography?

History

Another of the widely discussed subjects, where change is perhaps not as daunting as it might first appear, particularly at KS1 where very little change is needed. The two main areas of the subject which schools have not likely to have covered in the past are the pre-Roman study (stone age, iron age, etc.), and the world study which must focus on one of three 10th Century societies (Benin, Mayan, or early Islamic). Schools which had previously taught the Aztecs as their world study will also need to address a change there.

Consideration will also need to be given to the extended chronology and local studies. Many schools will want to combine these with existing units of work on Tudors, Victorians or Britain since 1930 (which are no longer required at KS2), but others may need new units of work to cover these expectations.

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Will units on Tudors/Victorians/WW2 be scrapped, or modified to match new local/extended study requirements?
  • Where and how will pre-Roman and World civilizations be taught in KS2?

Languages

In lots of schools, MFL is already in place and will meet the new requirements. However, in schools where existing programmes rely on taster sessions, or a combination of languages, discussions will need to take place about how schools meet the requirement to “focus on enabling pupils to make substantial progress in one language.”

Key things for schools to consider:

  • Do existing MFL plans allow for students to make substantial progress in one language?