WITH most of the district’s schoolchildren returning to their desks this week after summer holidays, many will be learning a new curriculum that includes computer coding for primary school children and a stronger focus on British writers.
The curriculum, which also includes more Shakespeare at a younger age, has divided opinions, including teaching unions who claim the changes are coming too fast. But others say the curriculum reflects the changing state of the country.
The new curriculum, put together by the coalition government, is being implemented in every council-run school in the country, although it will not be compulsory for academies.
Among the changes are teaching fractions and computer coding to reception children, an expectation that children should know their 12 times tables by the age of nine, and the requirement for pupils to study at least two Shakespeare plays in their first three years of secondary school.
There will be more study of technology, with children learning robotics and 3D printing, and primary children will be taught what algorithms are by the age of seven. There will also be a greater focus on essay writing and problem solving.
In history the curriculum will look at British history from the stone age, and in science there will be a focus on the solar system and evolution.
Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said: “Some teachers view these changes as OK, but a lot see them as a bad move. Teachers have the knowledge of the old curriculum, and changing it means years of work and huge amounts of work already prepared are lost. Politicians do things like this over and over again and it is part of what contributes to teachers having an unacceptable workload.
“Teachers won’t have read every book out there, so there will be the issue of teachers getting familiar with the material themselves.”
Pam Milner, Bradford representative for teaching union NASUWT, said: “I don’t think they have thought about the impact on teachers, some of whom will have been working all through the holidays.
“I think they should have left these changes until after the general election, and then whoever wins next year could bring things in over five years so the curriculum is fully in place by 2020. They could have also put better training on for teachers so they are fully prepared and equipped to teach this new curriculum. As it is, some teachers will only be a lesson ahead of their pupils when it comes to teaching some subjects.
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“I think this has been very short-term thinking, and there is no great confidence this is going to work for the children’s benefit. It was too much, too fast.”
Cllr Debbie Davies is the Conservative spokesman for education on Bradford Council, and defended her Government’s policy. She said: “I think this is a positive way forward. Learning the nine times tables at the age of nine sounds like something we should be aiming for.
"When it comes to Shakespeare a lot of people are frightened by the language, but are fine once they get into it.
"It is good for children to get into different ways of writing.
“A lot of the IT parts of the new curriculum are completely over my head, but to be honest kids are so good at things like this when it comes to computing even if older generations find it really complicated.
“The curriculum has to adapt to the changing world. I’m sure it might be difficult for teachers who are used to teaching the old curriculum, but I’m sure they’ll adapt and be able to adapt.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said the curriculum will help children prepare for life in modern Britain, adding: “We are confident all the reforms can be implemented within our planned time frame which is a testament to the dedication of our high-quality teaching profession. We believe it is right that changes are made as soon as possible to benefit the most young people.”