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Becky Allen calls for centralised primary teaching

(45 Posts)
noblegiraffe Thu 30-Apr-20 11:01:53

Interesting blog post from Becky Allen (formerly of Education Datalab) discussing the issues with what primary school teachers are setting, the demands on parents and the actual learning that happens.

Her point that her kids enjoyed watching an educational CBeebies programme but didn’t actually learn from it is interesting. Teachers know that kids need repetition over days and weeks and questioning and testing to remember things, but one-off lessons don’t deliver this.

“It now seems very likely some (or most) parents will be asked to combine work and schooling of young children for many hours a week for a large part of the next academic year. It is an almost impossible ask and all the parents I know who are trying to do this are at the point of complete collapse. Our best hope of keeping these parents from breaking down completely is drop our commitment to having each school create and deliver their own school curriculum of home-learning tasks that were originally designed for the classroom. Instead, much as primary teachers may hate it, we must deliver to parents new resources that are crafted with parental load in mind, limiting the parental role to meaningful interactions for learning in a limited number of tasks rather than burdening us with activities that have high extraneous parental load.”

...”we need a fully-centralised week-by-week National Primary Curriculum for the 2020/21 academic year.”

Other countries would think it bonkers that this isn’t already in place.

OP’s posts: |
NeurotrashWarrior Thu 30-Apr-20 11:22:24

I've been moaning from the start (and prior to the virus) that the decentralisation of the curriculum has wasted time and money for years, and the pandemic has highlighted it.

Yes the QCA docs were dry and weren't gospel and yes the strategies when they first began were tenuous, but they'd both evolved into top class teaching via nationally run, in-depth cpd courses.

As a consequence, online learning was aligned across all the various platforms, both free and paid for.

I recently attended ofsted delivered training on how to be a subject leader in primary and it was all about evolving a unique bespoke curriculum. "Golden threads" etc, So Romans is either in y2 or y4 or 5 depending on what school you are in. So a child can switch schools and repeat the same topic, missing others out.

I must say my son watches horrible histories on repeat and does learn a lot!

The only bonus of all these years for me is I've deeeped my own subject area knowledge through having to research so many different approaches! I've spent hours of my own time though which has at times impacted mental health.

phlebasconsidered Thu 30-Apr-20 11:27:21

I remember when it was centralised. It was a bloody sight easier to teach and cover everything and if you had new kids pop up you knew they'd be at the same point.
I loved the structure of the old literacy strategy.

Rollercoaster1920 Thu 30-Apr-20 11:30:11

And a workbook instead of all these bloody printouts and links all over the place. Would decimate the education industry though.

1066vegan Thu 30-Apr-20 11:39:25

I agree with the problem of children missing topics or covering them twice when they move schools.

One of the children in my class is making the most of lockdown to do a project on a history topic that she's really interested in. She'd been looking forward to it in her previous school, left the term before it was taught and was disappointed when she moved to my school and found that the children in her class done that topic the year before.

phlebasconsidered Thu 30-Apr-20 12:03:21

Oh lovely, lovely workbooks. Saved so much time at the copier - or risograph as it was then. I loved the smell of the risograph.

noblegiraffe Thu 30-Apr-20 13:11:53

It is really, really good to have someone high profile in education with primary aged kids that they are homeschooling while working from home analysing this. Dare I say that this blog wouldn’t have come from a man?

If we are to have phased schooling then the DfE needs to step up and take leadership. If teachers are in school teaching, then those at home need to be following a centralised scheme, not expecting teachers to set that work too.

OP’s posts: |
NeurotrashWarrior Thu 30-Apr-20 13:33:55

I agree.

Platforms exist. Eg discovery education/espresso, education city etc. The bbc and now oak academy. It's all patchy and mismatched so most teachers are carrying on as usual.

I personally love the white rose maths but it will be hard to differentiate (not a member) On things like espresso it's more key concept based rather than year group. Then you can be set on a particular level.

Reading eggs is set by a test, as is nessy, and has an eggcellent maths section too. (Sorry) then children can progress at their own rate and level. Other topics would be nationalised.

All it would have taken is some quick analysis by the dfe and channelling cash into one main area.

noblegiraffe Thu 30-Apr-20 13:46:50

If all schools have to amend their SOL for next year so that they have to match Oak Academy, then it might be a case of ‘so be it’. Every school continuing to do their own thing is unsustainable.

OP’s posts: |
Leodot Thu 30-Apr-20 14:25:09

I think a centralised curriculum has some big benefits. I like the idea of not missing out on topics and I think a lot of PPA time is spent reinventing the wheel. I personally love planning, as I get excited thinking of ways to teach things to my class but it does take a lot of time that I know I could be spending on other things.

It would be a shame to lose individuality, as what might be a really relevant book to study in literacy for one school, might be less relevant in another but I guess if you centralised it then the DfE could ensure there was a variety of different things.

Do people think this should extend to EYFS? I’m currently an EYFS teacher (taught KS1 as well) and have worked in a lot of different schools over the years. Seen some truly outstanding practice and some that was no more than babysitting. We know young children learn brilliantly through play and there should be opportunities during the day for child initiated activities but equally they benefit hugely from direct teaching, focused activities and structure as well. EYFS is already a largely skills based curriculum but is there any knowledge that people think would be essential to cover? I’m thinking about how a lot of schools use topics and some of the popular ones for EYFS like space, dinosaurs, animals, under the sea etc.

I’d also like to see the characteristics of effective learning playing a role in Y1-6. We do so much work on it in EYFS and then it’s never mentioned again. I know that people know that children should be doing these things but do we ever stop to explicitly teach them how to? Could a centralised curriculum be planned to consider how these skills could be taught through subject knowledge?

That’s my little muse for the day 😂 Would be interested to hear others’ thoughts!

Phineyj Thu 30-Apr-20 15:28:14

I thought that article was really interesting, thanks @noblegiraffe.

NeurotrashWarrior Thu 30-Apr-20 19:30:15

Leo, I suppose the issue with eyfs is all provisions are so very different?

StillGardening Thu 30-Apr-20 19:39:07

I find it madness that things aren’t more centralised. Not a teacher but work in secondary. When a new curriculum is brought in, and everyone in that dept spends hours updating the SOW for the subject , it completely bewilders me. So much work repeated across so many schools. Why ?

pfrench Thu 30-Apr-20 21:04:32

I sent that article to my colleagues last night to remind ourselves that we're not bonkers with our ideas.

I then bought the CGP books for my kid before they are hard to get hold of. Interestingly I sent my SEND kids home with appropriate sections of CGP - covers off so they didn't know they weren't doing the work for their year group.

user1471468296 Thu 30-Apr-20 22:01:43

I often think about the amount of reinventing the wheel when I'm planning. I've got a brilliant maths textbook but feel bad taking too many lessons from it - them I wonder why, if they are better than Twinkl alternatives or whatever or things I produce myself. What I can't understand though is why the BBC maths lessons (primary) have started with place value? Surely 99% of schools cover those lessons in the first weeks of the Autumn term?

HopeClearwater Thu 30-Apr-20 22:22:32

Would decimate the education industry though

This ^

All those ‘consultants’ whoring themselves out for inset days being paid thousands by LEAs - what would they do if there was a centralised curriculum? They’d have to go back to proper work. So they’re going to continue pushing the ‘make your school design its own curriculum’ agenda. Then there’s the education publishers. Pearson especially aren’t going to make money out of a centralised curriculum. There are simply far too many people with an interest in constant change. None of it is about the pupils. It’s all about financial interest.

pfrench Thu 30-Apr-20 22:47:27

The blog in the OP talks about lots of over learning of previously taught skills at this stage of home learning. Hence why BBC has gone for place value.

I've linked my key stage to white rose, which is new learning, but if they dont get it, then to go for the BBC. We've also put up our own work to place value work.

I'm going to have to reteach the 'new' stuff anyway, they may as well not do it.

HopeClearwater Thu 30-Apr-20 23:08:40

My school is only setting work which is revision of previously taught skills. We (teachers) are also required to explain concepts & methods for parents to follow, in every day’s work. It takes up most of the actual planning time. I teach primary so hopefully it’s accessible for the vast majority of our parents.

WhyNotMe40 Thu 30-Apr-20 23:18:16

I think we could do this for KS3 as well to a certain extent.
In fact I've already suggested that we look at the Oaks curriculum plan and align with their topics where possible going forward.
If course my suggestion has been like tumbleweed and not even graced with a reply....

NeurotrashWarrior Fri 01-May-20 07:16:04

Pfrench yes I bought a few of those work books and am actually working through them with ds, following the areas the teachers seem to be posting online.

Would decimate the education industry though

Yes agree with Hope. I'd started to be wooed by some of them and am working with them for free. They've absolutely panicked on twitter and were v critical. The whole point of the decentralisation of education was to create all these consultancies imo, a Tory theme. (I admit I initially thought that was what oak academy was.) I'm getting completely over loaded with the number of sources of home education resources available. It's all been an opportunity to advertise.

Sadly I feel there's so much disparity now that when I watch the oak academy stuff I feel like they're talking in a foreign educational language. There's the RWI language, the T4W language, the mantle of the expert etc.

I found some of the twinkl science packs unusable a few years ago.

The reinventing the wheel stuff actually really started to affect my mh recently and enforced quarantine was very welcome.

TheDrsDocMartens Fri 01-May-20 07:22:41

I remember issues over differentiation with the old system. Particularly for the more able. That could have been a school thing rather than national though.

My kids currently do Big Maths which I like as it seems very logical and step by step means kids work at their level.

NeurotrashWarrior Fri 01-May-20 07:40:55

Yes there were TheDr, most schools now set from yr 1. Because they moved away from work books to whole class teaching of 10 mins of this then 10 mins of that, you had to be very skilled to meet all the needs of your class and how you set work. It was near impossible. But was evolving well towards the end iirc. More part time staff were being used for target sets for lit and num. y5 and y6 in many schools split into 3-4 different classes or even more with teachers and HLTAs for lit and num.

The literacy and numeracy and phonics for year groups are fairly well aligned but very different approaches between school to school/ area to area. I was surprised to see oak academy lit lesson start a lesson with spellings actually.

Just had a shower and a thought; if the dfe bought ks1,2 and 3 a subscription to reading eggs (which had maths too) or similar, all children could progress at own levels and all data be fed back to teachers who could give any extra advice to parents or be aware of who needed extra input later on.

They could track where pupils were at and so lessons (I'm imagining part time) in school could be geared to gaps.

Then the bbc deal with the foundation subjects and science via really engaging content. Sorted.

flowerycurtain Fri 01-May-20 07:43:35

As a parent I think what she is saying is absolutely spot on. I'm drowning trying to home educated my y2 and reception whilst working part time from home and keeping all the day to day balls of shopping etc in the air.
What sends me over the edge is the eleventy million passwords and websites that just do not work with rural broadband.

Some of you saying that 2020/21 will be at home is making me panic. I was hoping for June. I can survive till September. They will be feral not educated if it goes on longer.

NeurotrashWarrior Fri 01-May-20 07:46:02

Flower I think the issue is that a number of pupils will need to be shielding and so how to make sure education is aligned for them.

careerchange456 Fri 01-May-20 07:59:45

Oak Academy is not good for my year group (year 2). The English is based on The Firework Makers Daughter which was always used in UKS2. It won prizes in the 9-11 category. I cannot see how it is suitable for 6-7 year olds and have no idea why they would have chosen that book.

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