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House of Commons
Session 2009 - 10
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Children, Schools and Families



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. David Amess, Janet Anderson
Brooke, Annette (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Minister for Schools and Learners)
Cryer, Mrs. Ann (Keighley) (Lab)
Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)
Gibb, Mr. Nick (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con)
Johnson, Ms Diana R. (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families)
Laws, Mr. David (Yeovil) (LD)
Linton, Martin (Battersea) (Lab)
Loughton, Tim (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol, East) (Lab)
Prentice, Bridget (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
Purchase, Mr. Ken (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op)
Stuart, Mr. Graham (Beverley and Holderness) (Con)
Timpson, Mr. Edward (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Wiggin, Bill (Leominster) (Con)
Sarah Davies, Sara Howe, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee

Witnesses

Sir Jim Rose, independent consultant to the Department for Children, Schools and Families
Sue Barratt, head teacher, Bournville junior school
John McIntosh, former head of the London Oratory school

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 21 January 2010

(Morning)

[Mr. David Amess in the Chair]

Children, Schools and Families Bill

Written evidence to be reported to the House
CS13 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
CS14 Children are Unbeatable! Alliance
CS15 Dani Ahrens
CS16 Rosemary McGruther
9 am
The Committee deliberated in private.
9.2 am
On resuming
The Chairman: Good morning, everyone. I remind colleagues—you probably do not need reminding—that this sitting finishes at 10.25 am; it is relatively short.
I welcome our witnesses. I am not sure whether all of you have given evidence before to a Committee such as this, but it is pretty straightforward. We have asked you here this morning so that colleagues can gather evidence, which will be helpful when the Committee stage of our proceedings starts next week. As I have said to other witnesses, relax and enjoy the experience. Will you kindly introduce yourselves, and perhaps make a brief comment on the Bill? May we start with Sir Jim Rose?
Sir Jim Rose: I am Jim Rose. I retired from Ofsted, director of education and director of inspection, in 1999. Since then, I have done several reviews. The latest, of course, was the primary curriculum review, which to some extent may be on the table today.
Sue Barratt: I am Sue Barratt. I am head teacher at Bournville junior school in Birmingham. I have been working for quite a few years on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority advisory committee, which for part of that time was the lead vehicle for Sir Jim Rose’s review. At present, I am working with the national college of school leadership on the implementation of the new primary curriculum, particularly on the leadership aspect.
I generally support the Children, Schools and Families Bill. From my point of view as a head teacher, I really don’t want it to cause unnecessary work and bureaucracy in schools. I also ask that careful consideration is given to the lead-in times for the new initiatives, so that they do not all fall on schools at the same time—that is, in September 2011—and we are not faced with all these things coming at once.
John McIntosh: I am John McIntosh. I was headmaster at the London Oratory school for just under 30 years. I retired three years ago. I now do some advisory work with local authorities, mainly Hammersmith and Fulham. I tutor on two postgraduate certificate in education courses at Buckingham university, and I am a governor of three schools.
My stance on the Bill is that it increases central prescription and introduces a lot more unnecessary bureaucracy. It shifts the balance of responsibility from governors and heads to the state and, to some extent, it undermines the rights of parents and families. It will distract primary schools from focusing on improving the quality of teachers, particularly in reading, literacy and numeracy, and undermine the integrity of individual subjects.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Q122Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): I want first to ask Sir Jim Rose a couple of questions. What is the difference between mathematics—the current national curriculum for primary schools under section 84 of the Education Act 2002—and mathematical understanding, which is what you propose as an area of learning in clause 10 of the Bill?
Sir Jim Rose: I am not sure that it is anything different from what we have now. The existing national curriculum requires knowledge, skills and understanding to be the structure under which we decide the content of subjects or otherwise. My recollection from sitting on Sir Peter Williams’ review of maths was that the pattern that he was promoting and, in fact, recommended was just that. We have simply supported it. In other words, the national curriculum was structured originally, and still is, under knowledge, skills and understanding. My review takes that forward and simply says that we need to make absolutely sure that the knowledge content is well defined, that the skills that go with it are clearly well defined and that we apply the knowledge and skills to win understanding.
I am pleased that you picked on mathematics. It is a particularly good example. In the recent past, Ofsted commented on maths and said that children are taught sums, but often do not know what sums to do or how to apply that knowledge when it comes to a practical situation. Given that sort of evidence, which has come forward fairly consistently, I think that the way in which we are suggesting things should be structured is very sensible.
Q 123Mr. Gibb: But you said initially that you were not sure that it was anything different from what we have now.
Sir Jim Rose: We say quite clearly in the review that we support the national curriculum as an entitlement. I think that there is too much in it, and that has always been the problem for primary, which I shall elaborate on if you wish. We should certainly be doing something about that. We are not stepping back. In fact, I would like to think that what we have achieved is a massive reinforcement of what everyone recognises as the basics for primary education—with the biggest impact hopefully being on literacy.
Q 124Mr. Gibb: Well, let us pick up literacy and your comment about prescription. You say in your report that the criticism was that the existing curriculum had so much prescribed content. I have here the programme of study for the English subject or area of learning, as you call it. It has 84 objectives. Why do we need so much prescription for our professional teachers in this country? Why do we need objectives? Why do we need 84 objectives? Why do we need objectives like M15
“to recognise how authors of moving image and multimodal texts use different combinations of words, images and sounds to create effects and make meaning”?
What does that mean, and why do we have to have so much prescription for our professional teachers?
Sir Jim Rose: Two things: first, when the national curriculum was introduced, it contained probably three times as many statements of attainment, which corresponds, I think, to what you are now pointing out. Over time—it is not due to my review alone—we have actually reduced that.
Q125Mr. Gibb: Why not just scrap the whole thing?
Sir Jim Rose: Well, let me just take an area in which you are very interested and have done a lot to support—literacy; the teaching of reading. If you look at the teaching of reading, one of the great sins of omission in the past was the attention that was given to phonic work in the broader programme of English. It was the one thing that, immediately the pressures were on, tended to be neglected. We brought that back to a very important status within literacy, and if you wish to make sure that that is secure, you have to recognise that teaching children how the alphabet works is crucial, so what is said there, somehow, somewhere, will be:
“Grapheme-phoneme...correspondences...in a clearly defined, incremental sequence.
To apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes in order, all through a word to read it.
To apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell.
That blending and segmenting are reversible processes.”
In other words, reading and writing—spelling and reading—are reversible processes. If we are going to help teachers see the progression that is needed, and what it is that they actually need to do, you have to have some level of prescription. The issue is how much.
Q126Mr. Gibb: That is E8 that you read out:
“to hear, identify, segment and blend phonemes in the order in which they occur in words to decode text”.
That is one objective out of 84. It is the only one that mentions that. Are you saying that teachers in primary schools should spend only one 84th of the time on the English curriculum?
Sir Jim Rose: No, no.
Q127Mr. Gibb: So these objectives do not carry equal weight? It is an important point.
Sir Jim Rose: Of course they do not carry equal weight. The other important thing, which I think you are pointing out, is that some of them are so closely related that you will be teaching them almost simultaneously.
Mr. Gibb: I am not sure that is true.
Sir Jim Rose: I could certainly give you case histories that could illustrate that.
Q128Mr. Gibb: May I open this up now and ask John McIntosh for his view of the new primary curriculum? I understand you were a headmaster at the junior school at the London Oratory.
John McIntosh: Yes. It has admitted boys at the age of seven for the past 14 years. It was a department that I established in the school.
Q129Mr. Gibb: Can you tell us about personal, social, health and economic education? I would like your views on that as well.
John McIntosh: As far as the curriculum is concerned, my views are perhaps rather more general than those expressed in the Rose review and the proposed legislation that arises out of it. I feel that the over-prescription and regulation of the curriculum—not just in primary but across the board—has to a degree led to what I might call the deprofessionalisation of teachers, who are now expected to behave in an almost robotic way in accepting orders from QCA and in secondary legislation. A lot of the discussion I hear in schools as I go round now and, before I retired, among one’s colleague heads, was not about what children should really be learning—about the real nature of the curriculum—but what children need to do to meet the Government requirements in respect of the national curriculum and the targets that they are expected to achieve. Their approach to the curriculum seems not to be a question of deciding what curriculum to provide for the particular children they have in their school, but what they need to do in order to meet the targets and the requirements of the orders. To add to that at secondary—I find a lot of heads talk in terms of what they need to do in order to maximise the position of the school in the league tables rather than what they should be teaching children at key stage 4. So my criticism of the Bill is that it just compounds something which I believe is already seriously flawed, and adds to what I call the deprofessionalisation of the teaching profession. Teachers are no longer entering into the dialogue that they really ought to be entering into about the nature of what they are teaching, and what children in schools ought to be learning.
As far as PSHE is concerned, I am looking at the items listed in the Bill. I do not think I could quibble with most of them. Most good schools are probably already covering most of those items in the curriculum. What I do quibble with is the idea that PSHE should be a discrete subject in the curriculum. Although the Bill does not actually say that, the effect of putting it in a Bill like this and is that it will become just that—a discrete subject. The curriculum is already seriously overcrowded. Heads and senior staff out there are probably already gearing up to include this in the curriculum. Personally, were I a parent looking around schools and at prospectuses, if I saw PSHE on the school curriculum, that would be a school to avoid. I would want to see all the things that are included in the Bill in the curriculum, but they should be taught through other subjects.
In the Rose review, a lot of reference is made to cross-curricular things and links. This is a good case for cross-curricular work. These things should all be embedded in the curriculum in other subjects, but you should be very careful about putting them into legislation in this form, where they will almost certainly finish up as a discrete subject in an overcrowded curriculum. These are things that every teacher should be taking responsibility for; they should not just be specialists in schools for PSHE.
 
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