David Cameron sits with nine year old pupils Abdullah Rashid and Anna Seitoar in a computer class at St Mary's and St John's CE School in north London today

Major revamp to maths IT and D&T curriculum

Primary schools will give lessons on computer programming, according to details of the revised national curriculum published today.

Education Secretary Michael Gove revealed details of his plans ahead of delivering a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, with major revamps to maths, science, computing and design and technology (D&T) teaching.

School leaders have warned the curriculum may still not be fit for the 21st century and have urged the Government not to put England's international test rankings above giving schoolchildren a "relevant and engaging" education.

But the Education Secretary said that close attention had been paid to what was happening in education overseas, and that officials in his department had "spent years" examining the curricula used in places such as Hong Kong, Massachusetts, Singapore and Finland.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the changes as a "revolution in education" saying that a new "rigorous, engaging and tough" national curriculum is critical to Britain's future economic success.

Hailing the changes, Mr Cameron said: "We are determined to give all children in this country the very best education for their future and for our country's future.

"New national curriculum is a vital part of that. The curriculum marks a new chapter in British education. From advanced fractions to computer coding to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language, this is a curriculum that is rigorous, engaging and tough."

The new curriculum for primary and secondary schools in England is due to be introduced in September 2014. It does not apply to free schools and academies, which are free to set their own.

Key changes include an acceleration of Maths teaching with pupils beginning to learn about simple fractions at age five – the first year of formal schooling – rather than at age seven under the current system.

By age eight pupils should be able to interpret and present data on bar charts, pictograms and tables and at nine, children should know their tables up to 12 times 12, compared to the current curriculum, which stated that youngsters should know up to the 10 times table by the end of primary school.

At age 11, pupils should be fluent in long multiplication and division and able to use fractions, decimals and percentages, before going on to be taught algebra and geometry in depth and more advanced concepts such as probability at secondary school.

In April the CBI criticised the Government’s draft curriculum for D&T saying it lacked "lack academic or technical rigour" with too much focus on ''life skills'' such as cookery, bike maintenance and gardening than science-based subjects like engineering which are required by industry.

In response the subject has undergone a significant re-write, with the new syllabus published today focusing on teaching pupils how to design and make products, how to use high-tech design equipment such as 3D printers as well as learning about robotics.

Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said: "Given the national curriculum does not apply to academies, it will become more of a general benchmark than a prescriptive tool for the majority of schools over the coming years.

"It's right to focus on rigorous academic knowledge but that isn't enough on its own. Businesses want a system where young people are equipped with the broader skills they need to be rounded, grounded and ready for work.

"The Government has taken some welcome steps today.

"The original design and technology proposals badly lacked academic and technical rigour, while being out of step with the modern workplace. The new proposals feel much sharper and focused on the technical skills industry and employers need, though that must now be backed by really effective specialist teaching.

"Ministers need to be more ambitious on maths; and make faster progress towards making it compulsory for all until 18, as many leading education systems do.

“The big challenge is to equip all young people with the basic numeracy they need before the GCSE syllabus starts. That will lay a better foundation for studying maths in sixth form and college and work, all at the right level for each student."

Commenting on the new D&T curriculum, Tim Thomas, head of Employment and Skills Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said: “Government has listened to business and developed a new Design and Technology (D&T) curriculum that will challenge young people.

“Exposing young people to a variety of new manufacturing concepts will also help inspire the next generation to consider a career in industry.

“We now want to see employers playing a bigger role; teaching D&T in schools on a part-time basis and bringing teachers into their company to help them bring the practical application of D&T back to the classroom.”

Science teaching will also focus on scientific knowledge with more practical work and more emphasis on maths, with climate science becoming a major topic at secondary school, but some of the most sweeping changes come in the information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum, with the subject now to be known as computing.

Children as young as five taught how to write and develop their own computer programs as well as learn how to store and retrieve data and between the ages of 11 and 14 students will be taught coding, and how to solve computer problems.

But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "We share the Government's aspiration to have a curriculum that is rigorous and challenging in every subject, for all children.

"We are pleased that that ministers have listened to our some of concerns about content in some subjects and have revised the earlier drafts. However the jury is still out as to whether the new curriculum will really give children the skills and knowledge they need for the 21st century.

"The ultimate aim should be that young people in England get an education that is relevant and engaging and gives them the edge in a global workplace. That is not necessarily the same as coming top of international test rankings."

Teachers' leaders have also raised concerns about the pace of the Government's curriculum reforms, which come at the same time as ministers are attempting to overhaul exams and assessment.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "Despite multiple drafts and much controversy, the real work on the curriculum hasn't even begun. The challenge is how schools now take the words on the page of the programmes of study and make them come alive in the minds of their students.

“The Government can persuade and shape, but it cannot mandate this and some of the unnecessary controversy so far has damaged its capacity to persuade."

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