This September a new national curriculum will be taught in schools across England. This could lead to testing times for parents, teachers and children alike, as they embark on the challenge of getting to grips with new expectations and new ways of learning.
To find out more about the changes, Explore Learning recently commissioned some research into how parents feel about the new curriculum. Having spoken with a number of parents myself and attended courses on the topic, I had the suspicion that not enough had been done to make parents aware of the changes to enable them to support their children in coping with the differences.
Once revealed, our research was very surprising. It found that an incredible 62% of parents in England were completely unaware of the changes, suggesting they will be ill-prepared to help their child with their studies and support them throughout their development.
We also found that nearly three quarters (72%) of the parents questioned worry that British children aren't leading the field in standards of education. This comes in the wake of the most recent PISA results which found the UK lagging behind their global rivals and failing to make the top 20 in reading, maths and science.
With this in mind, you can see why a new curriculum has been introduced; it's a response to the feeling that England is slipping behind their international competitors. Drastic changes have been made which for most children and parents will appear more challenging. Many concepts in maths and English will be introduced earlier, which might feel like quite a jump when children return to class in September.
The changes also mean a continued focus on phonics but with a larger emphasis on grammar, punctuation and spelling. In maths, knowing the times tables, using written algorithms and having strong mental maths skills will all be important and there will be more opportunity to develop problem solving skills too.
It's very difficult to know whether a focus on grammar and punctuation are the most essential skills for the next generation's workforce. Likewise, learning about British history in a chronological fashion also has debatable benefits. The increased focus on computing is great, as long as it is sustained throughout a child's education and we are particularly excited about an increased opportunity for real life problem solving and logical thinking in maths.
However, our recent research also found that two thirds (66%) of parents have lost trust in the education system. This figure is only likely to rise if the government doesn't do more to support their teachers who are introducing the changes. The implementation is messy. There is no extra money or additional time for teacher training to develop resources. Transitioning schools to a new curriculum without a clear method of assessment or levelling is confusing at best, and at worst will leave schools and teachers frustrated and disillusioned with the new system.
So, will the new curriculum have the desired effect, bringing England within the top 20 in the next PISA results? Well, only time will tell and it will be several years until schools will really be able to assess this.
For those parents concerned about coping with the new changes, attending information sessions that your child's school has to offer is the best option. And for those that are not put off by a bit of reading the programmes of study for each year are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-curriculum. We will also be running information sessions for parents on the new curriculum at Explore Learning so feel free to pop along to your nearest one.