HMI: Matters for Discussion

Background notes

1 Ten Good Schools
2 Classics in Comprehensive Schools
3 Modern Languages in Comprehensive Schools
4 Gifted Children in Middle and Comprehensive Secondary Schools
5 The Teaching of Ideas in Geography
6 Mixed Ability Work in Comprehensive Schools
7 The Education of Children in Hospitals for the Mentally Handicapped
8 Developments in the BEd Degree Course
9 Mathematics 5 to 11
10 Community Homes with Education
11 A View of the Curriculum
12 Modern Languages in Further Education
13 Girls and Science
14 Mathematics in the Sixth Form
15 The New Teacher in School

A View of the Curriculum

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Foreword (page v)
Considerations (1)
The curriculum in primary schools (7)
The curriculum in secondary schools (13)
Conclusion (23)
Appendix I English: development of reading skills (24)
Appendix II The mathematics curriculum (26)

The text of A View of the Curriculum was prepared by Derek Gillard and upoaded on 16 Aug 2011.

A View of the Curriculum
HMI Series: Matters for Discussion No. 11

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1980
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science

HMI Series: Matters for Discussion 11

A View of the

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office

[page ii]

Nothing said in this discussion paper is to be construed as implying Government commitment to the provision of additional resources.

Crown copyright 1980
First published 1980
Fourth impression 1985

ISBN 0 11 270500 6

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1 Considerations
'The curriculum'1
Meeting common and individual needs1
Necessary differences2
Common aims2
Analysing the curriculum3
Establishing reasonable expectations - standards3
Public demands upon schools5
The limits of the possible5
Evidence from HMI surveys6

2 The curriculum in primary schools
Individual differences and common needs7
Some necessary differences of programme7
Conditions required for the inclusion of a modern language8
Levels of difficulty in the work9
Contents and concepts10

3 The curriculum in secondary schools
Some propositions for consideration14
Two illustrations19
The curriculum beyond 1622

4 Conclusion

Appendix I English: development of reading skills
Appendix II The mathematics curriculum26

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In Local authority arrangements for the school curriculum (HMSO, 1979), the report on the Circular 14/77 review, the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Wales announced that 'they believe they should seek to give a lead in the process of reaching a national consensus on a desirable framework for the curriculum and consider the development of such a framework a priority for the education service ... As a first step towards the development of such a framework the Secretaries of State have invited HM Inspectorate to formulate a view of a possible curriculum on the basis of their knowledge of schools.' This document is the response to that invitation.

The only valid basis on which HMI can put forward a view is knowledge of schools as they are and realistic appreciation of the likely context in which any developments may take place. The timing is opportune, in that HMI have recently completed large - scale national surveys of primary and secondary education and the published reports display evidence and raise questions about curricular provision in schools. Other surveys by HMI over the last two or three years have led to publications on particular aspects of the curriculum and there are other studies nearing publication. Most important of all, there is a substantial base of routine inspection providing continuing contact with schools and LEAs, including monitoring the effects of expenditure policies and of falling school population, but also recording enterprise and lively professional thinking.

There is a particularly relevant piece of work in progress involving cooperation between HMI and the schools and advisers in five LEA areas, arising from the published HMI Working Papers Curriculum 11 - 16. This has to do with the essential analytical thinking that needs to accompany the design and construction of any curriculum. When, in due course, an evaluative account of these joint studies is published, it will give some measure of what curricular change involves for an individual school and its staff, or for a group of schools working in consultation, and of the necessary timescale. It will also indicate the extent of LEA support needed.

This document is issued in the HMI Matters for Discussion series and stands to its readers in the normal relationship of all that series of publications: it is a contribution to discussion. But there is an urgent need for discussion to lead to agreement about what is desirable and practicable, and to that end the suggestions offered here are positive rather than speculative. Because the education provided by schools is a matter of wide interest and shared responsibilities, it is hoped that the document will reach a general as well as professional readership.

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1 Considerations

'The curriculum'

The curriculum in its full sense comprises all the opportunities for learning provided by a school. It includes the formal programme of lessons in the timetable: the so - called 'extracurricular' and 'out of school' activities deliberately promoted or supported by the school; and the climate of relationships, attitudes, styles of behaviour and the general quality of life established in the school community as a whole. Whatever formal programme is adopted, account has to be taken of that other less formal and seemingly less structured programme, and of the interactions between the two. The fact that this short paper concentrates on the formal programme implies no undervaluing of the other educative influences.

Teaching methods, the way schools manage their time and organise the use of buildings, equipment, books and other materials, and the way in which pupils are grouped and teachers are deployed are not part of the curriculum. They are the means which enable the teaching and learning to take place, although the assumptions they appear to embody may themselves convey attitudes and values to pupils and teachers alike.

'The curriculum' has to satisfy two seemingly contrary requirements. On the one hand it has to reflect the broad aims of education which hold good for all children, whatever their capacities and whatever schools they attend. On the other hand it has to allow for differences in the abilities and other characteristics of children, even of the same age. Within the broadly defined common curriculum individual curricular programmes have to be built up year by year as children progress through school.

Meeting common and individual needs

This necessary tension between common and individual needs exists however the school system is organised. Historically, the problem has presented itself differently in primary and in secondary schools. Primary schools always have been comprehensive in their intake: they inherited the functions of the older junior elementary schools which received all children and sought to equip them with essential skills. Today's primary schools, while still providing for all children in common, with better knowledge of differential development and of the ways in which children learn, seek to identify the capacities of individuals and to establish an appropriate range of experience and performance, including the elementary skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Over the years, organisational changes have reflected different approaches to the problem: streaming was an early attempt to provide more appropriately for children of different abilities, just as the reaction against streaming and greater emphasis on individualisation of work was a recognition that such categorisation was often too crude, and apt to be self - fulfilling.

Secondary education, on the other hand, has developed from a selective system to one in which the great majority of pupils are now

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taught in comprehensive schools. The schools have been faced more directly with developing a view of common needs and ways of reflecting this in the curriculum, while continuing to recognise differences of potential and interest. Nor is this a problem solely for comprehensive schools. Although the pupils in selective schools represent a narrower range of academic ability, they are still diverse in talents and ambitions and in personal needs and circumstances. All schools alike have also to take account of changes in the outside world and in the demands it will make upon their pupils.

Necessary differences

If it is to be effective, the school curriculum must allow for differences. It must contribute to children's present well - being, whatever the age and stage of growth and development they have reached, and to their ability to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. Disadvantaged or handicapped pupils or pupils from ethnic minorities may have learning difficulties which require special help, and any children may need extra support at some time or other. Much of the time and concern schools devote to the personal welfare and 'pastoral care' of their pupils is supportive of the curriculum in this respect. As pupils grow older and their abilities and interests become still more diversified, account has to be taken of their differing aspirations beyond school.

Common aims

At the same time all pupils have to be prepared to meet the basic intellectual and social demands of adult life, and helped to form an acceptable set of personal values. There are some skills - the effective use of language is the most obvious one - which are essential for everyone. There are some sorts of knowledge - about themselves, about other people, about the nature of the world in which they are growing up - which all pupils need. Personal and social development in this broad sense is a major charge on the curriculum. The Warnock report* put the matter succinctly in asserting that the goals of education for children with special needs were essentially the same as those for all children. 'They are, first, to enlarge a child's knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding, and thus his awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment; and secondly, to enable him to enter the world after formal education is over as an active participant in society and a responsible contributor to it, capable of achieving as much independence as possible.'

A common policy for the curriculum in this sense cannot be a prescription for uniformity. Enabling all pupils to achieve a comparable quality of education and potentially a comparable quality of adult life is a more subtle and skilled task than taking them all through identical syllabuses or teaching them all by the same methods. It requires careful assessment of children's capabilities and continuing progress, and selection of those experiences and activities which will best enable them to acquire the skills and knowledge they need in common and to develop to the full their own potential. There is need for mutual confidence between schools and the wider public in agreement about aims and in identification of the means to their realisation. In practice that means that the broad definition of the purposes of school education is a shared responsibility, whereas the detailed means by which they may best be realised in individual

*Special educational needs Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People. HMSO, 1978.

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schools and for individual children are a matter for professional judgement.

Analysing the curriculum

The curriculum, whether for a school as a whole or for individual pupils, has to be presented as more than a series of subjects and lessons in the timetable. When schools come to plan their detailed programme of work, they need to be able to measure the adequacy of those programmes by reference to more specific objectives, some checklist of important knowledge or skills to be acquired, or of essential areas of understanding and experience to which all pupils need access, within their capacities. Both the HMI primary survey* and the curriculum 11 to 16 working papers** used this last approach to curriculum analysis, though with somewhat different formulations. That used in the primary survey was as follows:

language and literacy
aesthetics, including physical education
social abilities, including religious education.
Such categories are useful also as indicators of the range of work to be done, over a week or within a term, though obviously they need careful interpretation to suit the ages and abilities of the children. Curriculum 11 - 16, the appendices of which contain detailed checklists relating to a wide range of subjects, categorised the experience and understanding to be sought through the curriculum as:
aesthetic and creative
social and political
A comparable, though again somewhat different categorisation is being used by the Assessment of Performance Unit, which, for its purposes of establishing a national profile of pupils' performance, requires a means of identifying skills and knowledge compatible with the curricular arrangements of any school. None of these formulations claims, or needs to claim, absolute authority. Other variants exist in the wide range of practical and academic writing published about the curriculum.

Establishing reasonable expectations - standards

Learning in conventional subjects often contributes to more than one form of knowledge and to the improvement of more than one kind of skill. Schools need to work within some frame of reference which assists teachers to identify the full contribution of their own subjects to pupils' learning and to draw on the contributions of other subjects. The fact that individual pupils need different programmes makes this more necessary. The successful implementation of different programmes for different pupils also puts a premium on teachers' sense of 'standards': they need to be able to formulate appropriate expectations of what individual children should know or be able to do at a given stage. In order to feel assured that their expectations are

*Primary education in England: A survey by HM Inspectors of Schools. HMSO, 1978

**Curriculum 11 - 16 Working papers by HM Inspectorate. DES, 1977.

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reasonably pitched, they need bearings outside as well as inside the school: that is, they need to know how children of similar ages and broadly similar circumstances perform in comparison with their own pupils, locally and nationally. Comparative information such as the Assessment of Performance Unit is beginning to supply will be helpful to teachers in this respect; programmes of sample local testing by LEAs may give other points of reference; public examinations at 16 - plus already provide bench marks at the end of the period of compulsory education. These various measures and the schools' use of them need to reflect the changing demands of the world outside and local conditions.


For many purposes schools stand to gain by working in close professional consultation with each other and with their local education authority. Later sections of this paper discuss curricular questions with specific reference to primary or to secondary schools; but there are some considerations which cross the boundaries. The variety of age ranges found in schools and the numerous points of transfer which now coexist argue urgently for more thought to be given to curricular continuity and progression. The more varied, and, for some children, more numerous breaks - for example at 9 and 13, 11 and 16 - require more effort to establish and maintain continuity and coherence in what children learn and are expected to achieve.

Secondary schools have to build on children's previous experience and achievements and to prepare in due course for the learning associated with further and higher education and employment. Junior and middle schools also have a doubly demanding task of linking back with the earlier primary years and forward with the schools to which pupils transfer at the age of 11, 12, 13 or 14. The teachers who directly receive and teach children in their first year in a new school have most need to be well informed about their pupils' progress up to that point; but schools as a whole need to shape their policies and to plan the content of work with awareness of what has preceded. For a secondary school receiving pupils from many primary schools, that can be a difficult task. The establishment of a common framework within which that information can be placed is essential.

All this implies that no school, or further education college taking pupils at 16, can operate effectively in total isolation in its area, and by the same token, a local education authority needs to be aware of how its institutions function collectively as well as individually. Between primary schools and the schools which receive their pupils there needs to be not only communication about individuals but also consultation about aspects of the curriculum. Similar consultation is also necessary between the primary schools of an area. A most obvious example is in the matter of starting a foreign language. As is indicated later, a policy decision for the whole area is clearly required. Similar consultation is needed about the range of work in science or mathematics or English. It is not the purpose of such cooperation to limit or narrowly define what may be done in any individual school: on the contrary, aspirations, though clearly formulated, need to be generous and not reduced to 'minimal' requirements. It is, however, important to try to ensure that

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comparable expectations are being established about the range of experience and performance of pupils at a given stage. This again assumes the exercise of assessment skills by all teachers at all stages, as well as effective transmission of information.

Public demands upon schools

In establishing a proper content of learning schools have to be responsive to many demands upon education. They have to be sensitive to the hopes of parents for their children and to the values of society, locally and nationally. They have to be mindful of the expectations of employers and of the implications of mobility. They must, as far as they can, take account of new needs as they are identified and of new knowledge as it emerges. They have, for example, to consider the curricular implications of the racial and cultural diversity of contemporary society; they have to consider the advent of micro-electronics and the wider social and industrial consequences of new technology; they have to help their pupils to appreciate problems of energy conservation. Schools have a difficult task. They are constantly faced with demands from sectional interests to include more and more new matter in the curriculum. They are expected to preserve established values and the strengths stemming from experience, and at the same time to be forward - looking and open to new ideas; to try not only to respond to the world about them but to be mindful that the world in which the children now in school will reach their prime may be markedly different in ways not yet discernible. Teachers and pupils alike are required to be flexible and adaptable. Schools cannot be expected to be more successful than the rest of society in anticipating the future; nor can they, whatever their perceptions, require in young children and in adolescents an understanding beyond their stage of maturity. They must, nevertheless, seek to equip their pupils to deal with new experience, and to give them the confidence to respond to new opportunities. The energy, imagination, knowledge and personal qualities those pupils are able to bring to bear will themselves eventually help to determine the shape of the future.

The limits of the possible

There are limits to what can be done. There are limits of time, in the day, in the week, in the year, in the span of compulsory education as a whole. Children cannot be forearmed with everything they may need to know or be able to do as adults, even if they were all ready to receive it. There must always be some selection. There are limits of resources, both generally and in individual schools. Some desirable developments, for example, depend on the availability of specialist teachers still in short supply, or as in the recent history of science, modern languages or technology, on the capacity of existing teachers to exercise new or different skills. There are the effects of economic restraints and of declining school population. But delineating curricular needs more clearly can only be helpful; it can help to identify what must be protected, and suggest the best use of existing resources. Definitions cannot improve standards or guarantee quality; but greater clarity and agreement about aims and objectives can provide a better base for evaluation and hence for more effective action.

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Evidence from HMI surveys

The recent HMI surveys of primary and secondary education, as well as their other work with schools, indicate some unresolved problems. They essentially concern breadth, balance and coherence in the curriculum, and the relation of the parts to the whole. At the secondary stage they also raise questions of equality of opportunity.

The curriculum is made up of parts and for teaching purposes these may be traditional subjects or grouped or integrated studies. Each part also has a desirable internal balance and should incorporate a progression of ideas and skills, and an extension of knowledge from week to week and from year to year. The class teaching system in primary schools and the essentially common programme make it relatively easy to ensure within a class that balance and coherence are achieved in the curriculum as a whole - though many classes include too little observational and experimental science. The more difficult problem in primary schools is to secure sufficient progress in all parts of the curriculum, particularly for the more able children.

At the secondary stage the greater differentiation of treatment and the greater degree of subject specialist teaching, both appropriate as pupils grow older, result in complex organisational structures. Coordination is difficult and coherence hard to achieve. Some curricular arrangements are made to work well by the ingenuity and sustained efforts of the staff. Most schools are successful, within the limits of their resources, in providing individual programmes which take account of different strengths and interests. All recognise, too, the need to include some essential common elements like English and mathematics. The problem for many, however, is how to combine desirable differentiation with a sufficient breadth of programme to enable all young people to acquire the range of understanding and personal resources they will need. There are also marked inequalities in the curricular opportunities offered as a whole by individual schools, although these may partly reflect differences of staffing and resources.

The two chapters which follow consider separately and in more detail the curriculum in primary and in secondary schools, and suggest how it might be developed.

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2 The curriculum in primary schools

By the time children enter primary schools at about 5 years of age most have learnt to behave in a reasonably social way, though they may be unaccustomed to being members of such a large community as a school. They are likely to have acquired the basic structures of their mother tongue, not always English, and be aware of and interested in the shapes, sizes, colours and quantities of things about them.

Individual differences and common needs

Each individual brings a different set of experiences to bear on his schooling. These differences arise from variety in the surroundings in which children are brought up, from the degree of support and encouragement they have had from adults, and from differences in what their powers of imagination and intellect have allowed them to make of their experiences. At 5, a few have a vocabulary that is barely sufficient for their daily needs, while at the other extreme a small minority have a wide vocabulary, can detect fine shades of meaning and have begun to recognise written words; and a few have started to write.

At one level of generality, all children in primary schools need to be occupied in a programme that will enable them:

to engage with other children and with adults in a variety of working and social relationships;

to increase their range and understanding of English, and particularly to develop their ability and inclination to read and write for information and imaginative stimulation;

to acquire better physical control when they are writing, or exercising utilitarian skills and engaging in imaginative expression in art, craft, music, drama or movement generally.

Furthermore, if they are to extend their powers of language, children must be brought into contact with new experiences and ideas or look afresh at old experiences through discussion with teachers and through the use of books, role playing and audio - visual material. Studies of the beliefs and ways of life of historical characters and of people and communities who live today in other parts of the world, or indeed elsewhere in Britain, provide opportunities for language development through discussion, reading and writing. Moreover, these studies are valuable in their own right. This is especially so in a country that is multicultural. Learning about the nature of materials and about the needs and life cycles of plants and animals provides further opportunities for the extension and application of language and of mathematical skills and ideas. It also helps children to appreciate the world around them and provides an early introduction to the industrial and scientific age in which they live.

Some necessary differences of programme

When described in these general terms, the curricula of primary schools show close conformity. Differences that occur from class to

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class, and even from pupil to pupil within a class, are in the particular topics chosen for study, the methods of study employed, the weight given to each part of the curriculum and the level of difficulty to which each part is taken. There are good reasons why, to some extent, this should be so.

The first arises from differences between children, such as those described earlier. For example, a child entering school who has already begun to read soon requires books covering a wide range of topics and stories and may well be able to progress quickly with only a modest amount of supervision. Another child, before he is ready to begin to read, will need to acquire a surer grasp of spoken language, skill in noticing relatively small differences in sounds and shapes, and the habit of looking at printed material in an orderly way. Even then much patient help and encouragement may be needed if the second child is to gain in skill and confidence. To treat both children the same is to do an injustice to one.

As children make progress their interests diversify and what is a stimulus to one may be a barrier to another. If the necessary skill or the underlying idea can be presented as well in one way as another then it may create unnecessary difficulties to use the same way with all children.

Teachers as well as children differ in their abilities and enthusiasms. Schools differ in the resources available to them both because of the purchasing policies of present and past incumbents and because of the accidents of locality. A school in Lincoln is better placed to develop historical studies based on Lincoln cathedral than is one in St Albans.

The development and use of local opportunities, the special skills of teachers and the enthusiasms of children should be used to enhance the quality of work beyond what might come from a simple uniformity of practice; though such uniformity may have the advantage that the work to be covered becomes very familiar to teachers, what is done may be only a loose fit to local circumstances and soon become threadbare. When teachers make good use of their particular interests and strengths they can take children much further than is now common.

Conditions required for the inclusion of a modern language

The presence of a teacher with strength in a subject does not necessarily justify the inclusion of the subject in the curriculum, even if the children are capable of studying it. In the short term, French can be taught successfully in a primary school where there are sufficient teachers who speak the language well enough, who know how to teach the subject to young children, and who have the resources necessary for the work. However, these conditions are only the first that must be satisfied if the time and effort spent is to be worthwhile in the long term. Additionally, there should be a reasonable expectation that the teaching will be continued even if the teachers now responsible for the work leave. It should also be possible to continue the teaching in the secondary school in such a way as to profit from what has already been done. This may be difficult and even impossible if children in other primary schools in the area have had no opportunity or substantially different opportunities for learning the language. Unless conditions are favourable

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in all these respects for including the subject, it is best excluded from the primary school curriculum. Plainly, there is need for agreement between schools in a neighbourhood and the LEA on whether and how the teaching of a foreign language is conducted in primary schools.

Levels of difficulty in the work

In other parts of the primary school curriculum the decisions to be taken more usually concern the range of what should be done, the choice of priorities within the range and the level of difficulty of the work. In each of these, local circumstances and the differences between individual children and individual teachers have to be taken into account, but some common requirements remain.


All children should learn to use English better as they grow older, and to read and write English with a growing sureness. Some children come to school with little or no English. It is essential for them to become fluent in English but, whatever is done to achieve this, the child's interest and pride in his mother tongue should be preserved.

A minority of children of 11 years of age can manage only simple reading texts made up of short sentences using common words. They as much as anyone require appropriate reading material on almost all aspects of the curriculum so that they may better appreciate the importance of reading. The great majority of children should learn to use books, fiction and non - fiction, in the sense that they improve their powers of comprehension, that they learn how to find the books they want on the library shelf, and that they learn to use a contents page and an index. The full range of reading skills required by the more able 11 year olds is much wider than this, and a more extensive list is given in Appendix I.

Learning to read and learning to write go hand in hand, and the majority of children should, by the time they are eight, be able to write stories and accounts of events in their own words. As they go on through the primary school many children should become accustomed to writing which involves presenting a coherent argument, exploring alternative possibilities or drawing conclusions and making judgements. Children should learn, in the course of their work, to spell the words they use, to employ acceptable forms of grammar and sentence structure and to begin to develop styles of writing appropriate to the task in hand.

In mathematics, priority should be given to acquiring familiarity with whole numbers up to 100 by gaining skills in relating them to one another - including the speedy recall of the commonly used addition, multiplication, subtraction and division facts - and by applying them to circumstances that occur in everyday life. But nearly all of the children should go far beyond that. They should begin to appreciate the simpler spatial relationships and they should make a start on work requiring a relatively explicit application of logic as with some popular games and puzzles. A more extensive range of mathematical skills that should be mastered by more able 11 year olds is included in Appendix II.

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Over the course of the primary school years children should learn how to observe and to measure with increasing precision. They should also learn to use these skills with common sense; for example, when measuring or weighing, to use a degree of accuracy that is appropriate to the circumstances. They should learn to record - and to interpret and comment on - what they have seen, heard or otherwise learnt. They should gain from increasing control over their nervous and muscular systems so that they can use tools, instruments and a variety of small equipment in drawing, painting, modelling, music-making and games in such a way that they feel a sense of achievement.

Content and concepts

A wide range of skills, not least those concerned with the development of good personal relations, are relevant to the education of each child, though each makes progress at a different rate. The skills are learnt in the context of developing concepts and in the acquisition of information. Mathematical ideas suitable and necessary for primary school children are referred to in Appendix II. Some appropriate historical, geographical and scientific concepts are discussed in the following paragraphs.

When topics are being selected for inclusion in the programme a number of factors should be taken into account. These include the characteristics of the children, the knowledge of the teachers and the availability of suitable resources and facilities. The information to be covered should be worth knowing and useful in providing further insights into some more general idea or in improving a skill. There needs also to be some agreement between teachers in a school, with teachers in the secondary schools, and with teachers in neighbouring primary schools so that if a topic is to be studied twice or more in the course of a child's school life, the second and later occasion will build on previous experience.

On the national level it can be said that all primary schools should help their pupils to appreciate that today's world grew out of yesterday's, and to acquire some sense of historical chronology, even if the topics studied are not presented in chronological order. The children should learn to distinguish between fiction and historical fact and some should begin to recognise that historical evidence may itself be partial or biased. The youngest children's introduction to the past might concentrate on the immediate circumstances of their own families and friends and the paraphernalia of daily life. But today's world cannot be understood without some knowledge of Britain's role overseas today and in former years, and reference to this should certainly be included in the later primary school curriculum in a balanced and sensitive way as a means of helping children to understand our multicultural society.

The lives of the children and their parents are also conditioned by the geographical circumstances under which they and others live. As they go through primary schools, children need to become more aware of local features, of the formation and characteristics of the earth beneath their feet and of the weather. They need to learn something of the major differences in the conditions under which children live in other parts of Britain and abroad, and of the

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consequences of those conditions. They should also learn of the importance of routes and other means of communication between human settlements.

Skills of observation, listening and touching need to be developed so that children possess information on which their imaginations can work and be expressed through painting, modelling, music-making, dancing and storytelling. They need to be developed more than is now common in such a way that children are introduced to scientific ideas about stability and change in living things and materials: about reproduction, growth and development in succeeding generations; about forms of energy sources and storage; and about factors which influence personal and community health, including safety. Children should grow to respect and care for living things. In the course of the work they should learn how to observe systematically and carefully, to note similarities and differences and to make reasonable generalisations; they should conduct, and some should learn to devise, simple experiments to test out hypotheses.

Religious education has a statutory place in the curriculum of all maintained schools and the agreed syllabus system makes it possible to provide a framework of advice and guidance for this aspect of the curriculum in county and voluntary controlled schools. However, it is necessary for schools and teachers through their schemes of work to decide how that framework is to be adapted to the capacities and experience of the particular children with whom they are concerned.

Through religious education children can begin to learn something of the characteristic practices and beliefs of Christianity and of other major world faiths, and the influence these faiths have on the life and conduct of the believer. On another level, also important in the growth of attitudes and of an appreciation of human behaviour and achievement, it is necessary to introduce children to suitable examples of literature, drama, music and the graphic arts. Of these, literature offers an especially rich source and the children should be introduced to books by the major authors who have written for, or whose books have been adopted by, children. Some of the books should have been written by authors alive today.


Current practice is such that discussion on the primary school curriculum does not need to concern itself so much with the total range of the work as with the extent to which parts of the curriculum are developed, especially for the more able children. It is only provision of observational and experimental science that is seriously lacking in many primary schools; and the teaching of French that is sometimes attempted when conditions are not suitable. More extensive discussion is required on the levels to which work could and should be taken, at least for some children, in the various parts of the curriculum; for example, the identification of the skills and ideas associated with geography and history that are suitable for primary school children should help teachers to ensure that the day to day programme is organised so that children become acquainted with these skills and ideas, and should help to improve continuity from one class or school to the next - whether or not these subjects are shown separately on the timetable. Working parties of teachers, LEA advisers, inspectors and others have already shown what useful

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guidelines can be produced for parts of the curriculum, particularly, but not only, in mathematics.

Anxiety is sometimes expressed that maintaining a wide curriculum in primary schools may be possible only at the expense of the essential, elementary skills of reading, writing and mathematics. The evidence from the HMI survey of primary education in England does not bear out that anxiety. A broad curriculum can include many opportunities for the application and practice of the skills of reading, writing and calculating. It should be planned to include them, and every opportunity should then be taken to improve children's abilities in these essential skills.

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3 The curriculum in secondary schools*

All secondary schools need to strengthen and develop the skills children bring with them from the primary schools, and to introduce them to a widening range of knowledge and experience. For the first three years in most secondary schools the pupils follow broadly similar programmes; similar, that is, in terms of the names of the lessons which appear on the timetable - English, mathematics, history, geography, science, religious education, art, craft, music, home economics, craft design and technology, physical education and games. In most schools nearly all pupils also embark on a foreign language, usually French. In some schools some forms of grouped studies - 'humanities' or 'environmental studies' or 'design studies' - may replace some of the single subjects, wholly or partially, but the broad coverage is not dissimilar. For a minority of pupils there may be an opportunity to begin a second foreign language, classical or modern, in the second or third year, and science courses may begin to be more sharply differentiated for the abler pupils. For most pupils, however, the major changes in the curricular pattern occur after the end of the third year.

Even up to this point, it is not possible to discern from the names on the timetable alone how far the seemingly common curriculum is qualitatively similar, either in different schools or for different pupils in the same school. Only if a school has clearly formulated objectives, and some such set of criteria or checklist as has been indicated earlier, is it likely to be able to assure itself, let alone parents or others, that despite differences of detailed content or pace required by pupils' differing abilities, its concept of secondary education essentially holds good for all pupils.

The task becomes even more difficult after the third year, when typically in the great majority of secondary schools more than half the timetable for most pupils is made up of 'optional' subjects: some subjects are dropped, others chosen, with varying degrees of guidance or control. It is commonly assumed, with some justification, that some degree of self-determination is appropriate to pupils of this age and that some exercise of choice improves motivation. This arrangement also makes possible some greater concentration in the final two years of compulsory education on examination targets in selected subjects. Since public examination results have value as records of achievement and as qualifications for higher education or employment, these are important considerations for many pupils.

Historically, the structure of the secondary curriculum is partly a consequence of piecemeal response to change: to the establishment of comprehensive schools which combine in varying degrees features of the curricular tradition of grammar schools and of secondary modern schools; to the raising of the school leaving age, twice, incidentally making all pupils, by age if not ability, potential candidates in public examinations at 16; to a variety of curriculum

*For the sake of brevity the discussion in this section assumes that transfer to the secondary school takes place at 11 (still the commonest age of transfer) and 'years' one to five are the five years of secondary education up to the age of 16. Suitable adjustments to terminology need to be made to take account of pupils of comparable age in middle schools and junior high schools.

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development projects in different subjects; and to increasing, and laudable, efforts to match diverse needs and interests and to respond to demands from society. The net result of this diversity, between schools and for pupils within schools, is that there is as yet no assured meaning, locally or nationally, to be attached to the statement that a school leaver has completed the basic cycle of secondary education, beyond the fact that he has stayed till 16. Only reference to the particular school and to the individual's curricular history would reveal what range of studies he has engaged in, for how long and with what levels of achievement.

There is apparently no guarantee that five years of secondary education will have provided the pupil with opportunities to acquire, at whatever level, skills or knowledge or forms of understanding universally acknowledged as important. Happily the realities are not quite so anarchic, because habit and common sense ensure that schools, in practice, are not so divergent as the lack of any explicit common curricular philosophy might suggest. Nevertheless, there are sufficient grounds for unease to suggest a need to re-examine the rationale and organisational structure of the prevailing curriculum in many secondary schools.

A number of propositions are offered here for discussion. Familiar 'subject' terms are used because that is how most secondary schools and still more parents, employers and the general public usually describe what children learn; but it is important to note that these are a kind of shorthand, convenient for compiling school timetables, the real educational meaning of which depends on the clarity with which schools have defined what it is they expect children will learn and be able to do as a result of their studies in this subject or in that.

Some propositions for consideration

Proposition 1. There is a need for greater and much more explicit consensus nationally on what constitutes five years of secondary education up to the age of 16. There has to be some common understanding of what secondary education is intended to do for the pupils and to enable them to do for themselves. To make such a consensus possible, it is necessary to identify what range of knowledge and skills must be included, and what experience, attitudes and personal resources pupils are to be helped to acquire.

Proposition 2. 'Secondary education for all' entails that the formal curriculum should offer all pupils opportunities to engage in a largely comparable range of learning.

Proposition 3. Within the education system as a whole, locally and nationally, there should be comparable opportunities and comparable quality, though not uniformity, of education for all pupils in all schools. This requires the availability of certain opportunities within a larger context than the individual school, if needs and opportunities are not to be vulnerable to fluctuations caused by demographic and economic constraints.

Such an overview is not easy to achieve in any phase of education. It is notably difficult at the secondary stage, partly because of the diversity of the types and age ranges of schools in which the secondary years are provided. The way the school system happens,

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often for historical reasons, to be organised locally, or the points at which it is punctuated by institutional breaks, ought not to make any essential difference to the character and quality of the opportunities on offer, or to what the pupils and their parents, wherever they live, may reasonably hope for as an outcome of five years of secondary education and of eleven years, in all, of compulsory education. Policies and provision therefore need to be consistent in what they secure, while still encouraging local enterprise and work of distinction wherever it appears.

Proposition 4. There is need for cohesion between education up to 16 and that which follows after. There are complications in the variety of institutions in which education may be provided after 16, in the same school, in different schools, or in colleges of further education, full or part-time. There are complications also in the potentially very wide range of aspirations and destinations of students. Nevertheless, it is important to have a perspective for education from 14 to 18 as well as from 11 to 16.

The capacity of young people to profit from whatever opportunities may be available to them beyond 16 will depend heavily on the attainments, interests and attitudes they possess as a result of the education they have experienced up to that point. Awareness of this is an important responsibility for all concerned with the 11 to 16 curriculum. On the other hand, an excessively instrumental view of the compulsory period of education runs the risk of actually reducing pupils' opportunities at a later stage, by requiring premature assumptions about their likely futures - for example, in highly specific occupational terms - and by narrowing the educational base on which their potential may be developed. The early adolescent years are a period of marked growth and maturation in every sense, and education in those years has to enable talents to emerge and allow for interests to change.

Proposition 5. There is need for more coherence within the experience of individual pupils, and this requires conscious policies, appropriate structures, effective planning and careful evaluation on the part of their schools and their teachers. Coherence in this sense depends heavily on the professional skills of teachers.

In current and traditional practice, individual pupils' curricula have commonly consisted of a number of discrete subjects and any coherence has to be superimposed: coordination of learning is often hard to achieve, whether by pupils or by teachers. Curricular policies which begin with a statement of assumptions about the nature of the learning to be achieved and require the selection of necessary components in light of those assumptions have a better prospect of attaining coherence in practice. Here again, the professional judgement and skills of teachers are all important.

Proposition 6. Since most of the learning takes place through the study of traditional subjects, it is essential that those who teach them and who design schemes of work should identify explicitly the knowledge and skills each of those studies is expected to promote and examine their combined significance for the education of individual pupils. Where traditional subjects have been replaced by grouped interdisciplinary or 'integrated' studies, it is even more important that

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the learning objectives be clearly established, since familiar landmarks may be less visible.

Proposition 7. Extending the amount of common ground implies in practice a broader coverage of subjects than many pupils now sustain to the age of 16, and a substantially larger compulsory element in the final two years. Both the number of optional subjects and the range out of which they were chosen would be correspondingly smaller, and their function in relation to the common, compulsory part of the curriculum could change also.

Proposition 8. In any future development of the curriculum, to those elements already widely held in common - English, mathematics, religious education, physical education - should certainly be added some continued form of science education for all pupils. Whether or not it is presented under the traditional separate science subjects - and the individual school will have to decide on this in light of its circumstances - it should be of a sufficiently broad kind to familiarise all pupils, at levels within their understanding, with important concepts and knowledge which may both stimulate their minds and their imagination and equip them better for their future responsibilities as citizens. School science is one of a group of subjects, including mathematics and craft design and technology, which clearly have an important part to play in developing understanding and appreciation of technology. Engagement with the processes of science should also be helping to strengthen general powers of observation and reasoning.

Proposition 9. There is also a strong case for a modern language in the education of all pupils, and for the establishment of national policy on the place of individual languages in the system. Account has also to be taken of the presence in many schools of British born pupils from ethnic minority groups who are already acquainted with languages other than English, and the children of migrants from EEC and other European countries, who wish to maintain and develop their mother tongues. For reasons indicated earlier the first foreign language is usually likely to be introduced in secondary rather than in primary schools.

The learning of a foreign language offers intellectual stimulus and cultural benefit. It now also has increasing practical value, as our links with Europe and the rest of the world are strengthened. Most pupils in England are less well equipped with foreign languages than their counterparts in other countries of Europe, either for their future role as citizens of an EEC country or for the full enjoyment of their greatly increased opportunities for working abroad, for private travel and for savouring the life of another country. Schools commonly recognise now that an initial opportunity at least should be offered to the great majority of pupils to begin a foreign language, usually French. Unfortunately it is only a small minority of pupils who continue that study for five years, and many of those who drop off along the way do so with little achievement to show. Substantial improvement on the position requires an enlarged supply of specialist teachers and considerable in - service training to enable many existing teachers to grapple successfully with the needs of pupils representing a wider range of linguistic abilities and interests.

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A foreign language sustained in the compulsory educational programme of at least a much higher proportion of pupils than now is probably a first target to be aimed at, with considerable rethinking of the character and timing of foreign language study for those pupils at present unlikely to sustain a five-year course. It is worth considering, for example, whether some pupils would be better to make a later start: or whether those pupils who make a poor start in the first year, after a suitable diagnostic period, should be permitted to drop the subject for the time being but be brought back to it with a fresh start for at least the last two years of compulsory schooling, when both their motivation and their general learning skills may be stronger.

Up to this point it is easy to discuss curricular provision in straightforward subject terms, because most of the subjects so far identified correspond very closely to major aspects of experience and learning which would be widely regarded as essential. The development of mathematical and scientific skills and understanding, for example, requires specific opportunities to study mathematics and science, whatever extension or reinforcement can and should be provided through other subjects - in geography, for example, or crafts. Similarly, although language enters into all learning and its significance needs to be appreciated by all teachers, no school is likely to wish to forgo the particular attention to the use of language in all its forms, including literature, achieved through English lessons. A foreign language, on the other hand, cannot be simply subsumed under general 'linguistic' provision. Within overall national and local policies distinct decisions have to be taken also by a school about which languages are to be introduced, when and for whom.

Beyond this range of studies, however, decisions about the desirable ingredients of the rest of pupils' individual programmes are more likely to involve choice and more obviously need to be related to some view of the curriculum as a whole. Wherever choice is offered to pupils, it is important to be aware both of the positive extensions to their experience offered by the subjects they choose and of the diminution or deprivation of experience which may result from dropping subjects at an early age.

Proposition 10. No pupils' programmes should be wholly deficient in the arts and applied crafts. Schools employing, as some are now, an analytical framework such as that of the 'areas of experience' referred to earlier, could see various ways of providing aesthetic and creative experience through music or drama or art or crafts, and for designing and making through craft design and technology, or through home economics or needlework. Whilst each of these activities has its own distinctive characteristics and may appeal to different talents and interests, they have also some valuable features in common: it should therefore be possible to ensure some selection of studies from within this range for all pupils. For some pupils, of course, any of these subjects, in all its full range of interests and applications, may constitute a major element in their programme.

Rather more difficult decisions may arise in relation to social and political education. Schools do quite commonly now offer pupils a choice from history, geography, economics or some form of combined social or environmental studies, and there clearly are some

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overlapping interests and skills which pupils could be expected to derive from them. It is, however, questionable whether, in view of the way these subjects have developed over recent years, young people will derive enough of what they need to know and understand from a choice of only one of these.

Proposition 11. There is, in particular, a strong case for maintaining some study of history in the final secondary years. A proper appreciation of the culture and traditions of this country, and of rights and responsibilities in a democratic community, requires some historical perspective; so, too, does a better understanding of the changing nature of our society in both its technological and its multicultural aspects, and of the increasing interdependence of nations. Many of the ideas with which pupils may engage through history, and the nature of the evidence they may need to assess, require a maturity of thought which few children have attained by the age of 14, when many of them at present 'drop' history. Its place and emphasis in the curriculum, and the nature of the content appropriate to history as a basic ingredient of general education, all need reconsideration.

Proposition 12. However this problem is resolved in any individual school, it is also certain that schools need to secure for all pupils opportunities for learning particularly likely to contribute to personal and social development. Religious education clearly has a contribution to make here, and study of personal relationships, moral education, health education, community studies and community service all provide one range of contexts in which such development may be furthered. Careers education and guidance, preparation for working life, work experience, an introduction to the environmental, economic and political concerns likely to face any adult citizen, all provide another of great importance. This list is not exhaustive or exclusive, nor should it be assumed that all these and other aspects of general education will appear as separate items in the timetables, although some will. It is, however, important that account should be taken of all the needs these represent in planning the curriculum as a whole and in considering the understanding and skills to be developed by any part of it.

Proposition 13. In a curriculum designed to include a substantially larger compulsory programme than now, common to all pupils, there would still be room and need for differentiation and choice. In the compulsory part there is need within broad subject fields to differentiate levels of work, content and emphasis. For example, to require all pupils to sustain a broad programme of science education at least up to the age of 16 does not imply identical syllabus content or identical treatment for all nor does it overlook the interests of the future scientist. Rather it envisages a variety of science studies which embrace some common essential elements presented to suit the pupils' capacities. The ways in which this might be arranged in any given school are matters of organisation rather than principle. The essential task is to explore the means of differentiation of content and presentation, while keeping some parts of the subject accessible to all.

Proposition 14. The 'optional' sector should provide the necessary opportunities to take up new or additional subjects, or to encounter

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new elements of experience or knowledge not contained within the compulsory curriculum, or to give time to extend or reinforce compulsory studies, where some pupils with learning difficulties will need continued help. Within such a framework some vocational interest can, where appropriate, be introduced either in the form of optional subjects - commerce, for example - or as an extension of compulsory subjects into studies involving more specific applications. For example, technology might appear here either as a course in its own right or as an extension of science or craft.

Two illustrations

It is no part of the purpose of this paper to produce a particular timetable model or to imply that there could be one for universal adoption. On the other hand, it seemed prudent to try to devise curricula which met some or all the requirements sketched out above. The two examples which follow are therefore offered purely as illustrations.

Example A. This remains fairly close to the curricular pattern widely found now, but embodies a larger compulsory element sustained up to the end of the fifth year. The traditional subject terms are used, but should not be assumed to imply necessarily traditional content.

(a) For the first two years the timetabled curriculum for all pupils comprises English, mathematics, science, history, geography, a foreign language, religious education, music, art, home economics, craft design and technology, physical education and games.

(b) This programme continues into the third year, except that (i) all pupils embark on a formal programme which will continue until the end of the fifth year, embracing careers, political and economic education, health education and personal relationships: the relative emphasis on these elements will obviously vary over the three year period. (ii) Some pupils start a second foreign language, classical or modern, while others use the time for other subjects. Science is a balanced course for all pupils. English includes the study of literature and drama as well as language. Some schools would choose to combine subjects formally in some interdisciplinary groupings, and it is assumed in any case that teachers will make conscious links between subjects where appropriate.

(c) In the fourth and fifth years the compulsory core comprises English, mathematics, one science, one subject chosen from history/geography or from within social studies, one subject chosen from the aesthetic/practical area, religious education, physical education and the continuing programme of careers and social education begun in the third year. Most pupils continue their study of the first foreign language, while others add periods of other subjects. This core accounts for about two thirds of the time. The remainder is made up of options taken from three groups: two of these contain additional subjects, e.g. a second science subject, a second foreign language, a second practical subject. The third group allows a series of short courses: a school could decide what was appropriate for its pupils and particular circumstances, but they might variously include, for example, over the two years, a selection from computer studies, consumer education, childcare, work experience, field studies, community service, leisure activities, extension of (or additional help with) compulsory subjects,

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private study. Some of these courses might be concentrated in a few weeks or a term; or some elements, like a period of private study, might be provided throughout the whole of the final year.

Example B. For the first three years the curriculum is similar to that in the preceding example. In the fourth and fifth years a much broader compulsory core is sustained, including English, mathematics, science, history, geography, religious education, art or music, home economics or craft design and technology*, physical education and the continuing programme of careers and social education begun in the third year. The majority of pupils continue with the first foreign language, while the remainder are offered additional periods in other subjects depending on their needs and talents. The subjects offered in the compulsory core are arranged by the appropriate departments to suit the abilities, interests and ambitions of the pupils and embrace the essential elements of the subjects. Science, for example, is a balanced course for all pupils, suited to their abilities. The remaining time, perhaps about a quarter of the timetable, permits pupils to extend or reinforce compulsory subjects or to choose new subjects. Provision is also made for a series of short courses as in the previous example.

In both examples some elements of personal and social education are covered partly within the compulsory programme and partly within the series of short courses. Both examples permit pupils to extend their studies in various ways, by a limited selection from one or two further science subjects, or a second or third foreign language, or further humanities subjects, or craft design and technology, home economics, or vocationally orientated studies such as commerce.

In present practice pupils drop some subjects in the fourth and fifth years in order to give more time to other subjects. In Example B, almost all subjects are carried through for five years; consequently the time allocations for subjects in the fourth and fifth years generally need to be reduced in order to fit the compulsory core into three quarters of the week. On this pattern it is necessary to identify for each subject the essential elements and form a coherent course for those pupils who take the subject only in the core curriculum. Again, it is for the school to decide whether it wants to group any of these basic studies in interdisciplinary courses, in history and geography, for example. It is also important that the essential elements together with the extended and additional work in the options make up a suitable course for those pupils who choose it. For example, it would be possible for pupils intending to proceed to more advanced work in science in the sixth form to add time for separate science subjects to the basic provision for science for all pupils: clearly the planning of the science programme as a whole has to be well coordinated. Such a structure, though potentially allowing useful flexibility, also makes large demands on subject teachers' skills, both in initially devising the courses and in maintaining coherence.

It must be emphasised that these are simply illustrations of ways in which the compulsory curriculum might be broadened to a greater or lesser degree, while still allowing for differentiation and choice and for dealing with aspects of education not readily identified with traditional subjects. Probably Example A is closer to what many schools would choose or see as possible at present. They are both

*It is assumed that this is an open choice for boys and girls.

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practicable within the current resources of many schools, but there are also many schools in which they would not be feasible, given the need to augment the numbers of teachers with suitable qualifications in science and modern languages and other 'shortage' subjects and the shortage of laboratory accommodation in some schools. They do require, too, a capacity and readiness on the part of many specialist teachers to rethink the definition and content of traditional subjects. Given this, however, most schools could make some move in the general direction suggested here to enlarge the range of opportunity for all pupils.

It would obviously be easier to design a much broader, five year curricular programme for all pupils, if it did not have to be assumed either that every group taking a given subject must give the same amount of time to it, or that every serious course of study must, if possible, lead to a public examination at 16. The latter is a particularly important consideration in respect of the academically more able pupils, who for the most part already have heavy programmes of examination subjects but whose curriculum is frequently deficient in aesthetic and creative/practical experience, as well as in other elements of personal and social education. Some of these deficiencies might be remedied if, for example, such pupils had opportunity for some worthwhile experience and achievement at a serious level in music or art or home economics or craft design and technology, without following the kind of course or needing to take the amount of time required for public examinations. There would, similarly, be other pupils who were taking those subjects for examination purposes, who might need comparably protected non-examination time for other learning, the maintenance of a foreign language, for example.

These considerations begin to take the discussion into questions of examination entry policies and, more widely, into the relationship of the curriculum to assessment in public examinations. Certainly if all pupils were required to sustain a much broader secondary curriculum, it would be necessary to consider carefully how much of their programme and on what basis should be selected for assessment in external examinations, and how achievement in the rest of the curriculum should be assessed and recorded by other means. Discussion of developments in the examinations system itself, also under review, does not belong here. But it should perhaps be noted that a curricular approach which made it necessary to identify essential subject 'cores' common to all, with provision for differentiated extension beyond and around them, and encouragement to broaden skills and understanding, would certainly fit well with the need to establish new types of syllabus, criteria for grading and positive marking seen by the Waddell Committee* as developments necessary to the establishment of a common system of examinations at 16-plus.

It cannot, however, be forgotten that there is a significant proportion of pupils for whom courses designed to lead to public examinations at 16-plus are unlikely to constitute more than a minor, if any, part in an appropriate curriculum or to offer attainable goals. These pupils still need broad and demanding curricular programmes, which stretch their minds, engage their curiosity and imagination, and strengthen their understanding and personal resources, including the resources of essential skills sustained at the highest level of which

*School examinations Report of the Committee chaired by Sir James Waddell. HMSO, 1978.

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they are capable. They, too, need a proper assessment and record of their achievements and capabilities. If all pupils had a well designed school record which took account both of what was internally assessed by the school and of achievements in external examinations, it would be more likely to be valued both by the pupils and by employers or others who need to know what the pupils' experience has been and where their strengths lie.

The curriculum beyond 16

The curriculum and examinations in the sixth form have long been under discussion and still are; so, too, is the larger 16 to 19 scene as a whole. There is a case for broader and more coherent curricula at this stage also, and for the continuing development of literacy and numeracy at appropriate levels. For many pupils there is a case for continuing or beginning the learning of a foreign language. Given, however, the existing structure of institutions and courses and the diversity of interests involved, it is not possible at the present time realistically to offer a common frame for the curriculum 16 to 19 which carries forward the same principles argued for education up to 16. Nevertheless, just as education pre-16 now has to be planned with awareness of the nature of the courses pupils may take subsequently, so post-16 education will have ultimately to take account of any substantial change in what precedes it. The problem of ceasing to study a subject at 16-plus is less than that at 14-plus, but it still poses questions about taking a course of study for long enough to secure maximum value for the learning and time already given.

If all pupils were to sustain a broader programme up to 16, the argument would be still stronger for many more students entering the sixth form being able to retain an interest in more than their specialist A level subjects. The place of a continued study for non-specialists of a foreign language, or science, mathematics, literature or indeed a whole range of subjects would need further consideration. The nature of general studies and their relation to students' main academic courses, currently very differently understood and practised, could also change in consequence. General studies need in any case to include for able students some means of relating their academic and intellectual interests to a wider understanding of society, and particularly of industry and the economy and the part they themselves may eventually be able to play. There is a better prospect of achieving some understanding of the complexities of economic life at this stage than with younger and less mature pupils.

For those students not taking A level courses and staying for one year in the sixth form it is already easier now to provide broader programmes, but in practice such principles are not always applied. For these sixth form students, and for others who proceed straight to further education, the broader range of their curriculum up to 16 would have kept more possibilities open to them; the range of knowledge and interest they would bring in consequence would provide a larger context for both their vocational studies and the more general components of their courses.

For all students, their continuing education, whatever its nature or academic level, needs to include a suitable counterpart to the programme of careers, personal and social education provided for younger pupils.

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4 Conclusion

This paper has argued briefly for a broad curriculum for all pupils up to 16. It implies a substantially larger compulsory element than now in terms of the range of studies pupils carry forward to the end of the fifth year, but with suitable differentiation in detailed content and presentation, and still with some provision for choice, to match different abilities, aspiration and need. It also seeks greater coherence and continuity in school education as a whole. It is concerned with a framework for the curriculum and therefore rightly leaves many details to be determined.

It assumes a fairly lengthy subsequent process of consultation, locally and nationally, to establish broad policies on the structure of the curriculum as a whole and to develop a range of documents further defining the parts of the curriculum and their relationship to each other. These will need to take the form of statements identifying necessary skills and knowledge. There is already useful experience on which to draw of the cooperation necessary to the local formulation of curricular statements. In a number of LEA areas, working parties of teachers and LEA advisers and inspectors have produced guidelines, particularly for mathematics; some local schemes have effectively brought schools and industry and commerce together in considering curricular content and necessary skills.

The two appendices which follow, on mathematics and reading, illustrate the forms which such statements might take. Even these two examples indicate that all statements will not be of the same type but will vary with the subject and the learning involved. That on reading, for example, would constitute part of a much longer document on the teaching of English: but much of it also could be part of a general statement on language policies common to all departments of a school. Some lists will inevitably be longer than others. It will require nice judgement to strike a balance between too restricted a statement, which might too easily settle for minimal requirements, and an over-elaborated statement which risks seeking to define too precisely how each item of learning is to be accomplished. From these analyses a school would then compose appropriate curricula for its pupils, taking into account the legitimate concerns of parents, employers and others outside the school.

In the end, whatever is decided nationally must leave much for individual local education authorities and schools to determine as they interpret the national agreement to take account of the nature of individual schools and individual pupils. It must take account of children's capacity to learn at any given stage of their maturity and identify what is intrinsically worth learning and best acquired through schooling. It must, too, allow for future modification in response to new needs in the world outside schools: decisions cannot sensibly be taken once and for all. The effort involved will be justified if it leads to developing more fully the potential of all children.

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Appendix I English: development of reading skills

An essential part of the development of children's ability to read concerns the translation of letters on the page into words in the mind. Just as necessary is the growth in children's capacity to understand and use language and to relate it to experience. The following paragraphs should therefore be read as part of a wider framework for the development of children's language, involving all teachers and including:

(a) opportunities for talking, listening, writing and reading in a variety of contexts
(b) a stimulating range of literature
(c) a carefully structured approach to mastering skills
(d) consideration of how language works between people
(e) a coherent approach to language in all subjects as the medium of learning.
A curriculum should provide for the continuous development of skill in reading throughout the years of schooling, from the recognition of words to the comprehension of complicated material.

Some children entering infant schools need help in acquiring some pre-reading skills before they can make a formal beginning to reading. When these skills have been mastered, high priority should be given to teaching word recognition and to building an adequate sight vocabulary, with some understanding of phonics, so as to ensure a basic repertoire of reading skills with which to tackle written material. At the same time children should be encouraged to enjoy reading prose and poetry as a worthwhile and pleasurable activity, learning to value fiction as well as non-fiction through the use of group and individual reading books, including those chosen by themselves.

Graded reading schemes are widely used to provide young children with reading matter suited to their level of skill, but these are insufficient in isolation. 'Real' books have an important part to play from the earliest stages. By the age of 8 most children should be able to read, with confidence, simple sentences about familiar situations. More able 8 year olds should be expected to recall the theme of a short story they have read, as well as to comprehend books of information of the kind written for young children, while gifted children of this age should be able to use adult material, at least in part.

Once children have acquired the early reading skills, they should begin to learn to predict what may appear next in a piece of writing, to use various contextual clues, to develop and extend their reading vocabulary and to use dictionaries. They should also learn how to use the contents pages of a book and its index, and the ways in which books are arranged on library shelves. These skills need to be developed in a reading context that continually underlines the pleasure and advantage that can come from reading.

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By the age of 11 many pupils should be aware of the more advanced skills of reading though these require continuing development during the secondary school years if the needs of more subject-based studies are to be met. Children need to learn to read books in a variety of ways, learning how to skim and sift material, to vary the pace of reading, to process information and to discriminate between the more and the less important features. Pupils need generally to increase their range and rate of comprehension which, in turn, requires an increasing commitment to sustained reading for which the school should make due provision.

During the secondary school years pupils need to become aware not only of the overt meaning of what they are reading, but of the many kinds of oblique meaning with which it is charged: the nuances of tone and attitude, the various indicators of emotion, the contribution of imagery, the significance of structure, the effects of rhythm. Developing awareness of such factors will help them, when they are reading literature of quality, to enter more fully into the thought and feelings of other human beings in the fundamental situations that confront all of us; and, when they read some of the less good writing that is bound to come their way, to detect such features as exaggeration, bias, insincerity or vulgarity. Unless they develop these skills, their reading is unlikely to contribute to widening their experience, sharpening their sensitivity or shaping their values. It is important to provide for them a careful balance of content, so that a wide range of novels, poems and plays is available as well as non-fiction. There is value in continuing to encourage library skills and book buying, and in teachers setting an example as enthusiastic readers themselves.

A proportion of children will always require special help if they are to make even modest progress as readers. By careful selection of material and the development of teaching techniques which take note of assessment and diagnosis, these children should be given every opportunity to develop to the limits of their potential.

The outcome of a reading curriculum, therefore, should be a majority of pupils who like to read because to do so can give pleasure, can help them to find out more about things they have an interest in, and because reading can sometimes be fun. Their skill in reading should enable them to tackle a range of written material with confidence. They should have reached a stage of fluency which enables them to move from graphic symbol to meaning without having to match the symbol to a sound. Well developed critical ability should enable them to make reasoned choices of what to read and to select relevant information. They should have, as part of their experience, a sound body of well chosen prose and poetry which should include work of the best modern writers.

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Appendix II The mathematics curriculum

It is in the interests of the country that as many people as possible should achieve acceptable levels of competence in mathematics. It is also in the interests of the individual to reach as high a level as possible in the subject, not merely because mathematics may help a person to get a better job and do it well, but chiefly because it can help in understanding and interpreting very many aspects of the world in which we live.

The details of the approach and content of the course have to be worked out by consultation within each school; but we may take as a starting point the following objectives, which have been widely discussed over the last two years.


At every level in the teaching of mathematics the formation of concepts should have priority over the acquisition of technical skills. This is not to imply that such skills are to be neglected, but that emphasis on understanding will facilitate the acquisition of those skills which are needed.

The use of language plays a dominant role in the learning of mathematics, and teachers should be constantly asking pupils to speak and write about what they are learning, mostly in ordinary language rather than in specialised words or symbols.

Symbols should be introduced only when the need for them is perceived and pupils understand what the symbols denote. If pupils are to acquire the ability to manipulate symbols accurately and with reasonable speed, and at the same time to focus their attention on some higher purpose (such as the solution of a problem), practice is necessary. But the accurate manipulation of symbols alone is of limited value; pupils need also to see purpose in manipulation and to attach meanings to symbols when necessary.

If pupils are to be aware of the inter-relationships between mathematics and other subjects of the curriculum and between mathematics and the world of experience, and are to be able to apply their mathematics in these areas, it is necessary to stress these inter-relationships constantly. Examples of the applications of mathematics in science, technical studies, geography, economics, and from industry and commerce, not only serve to help pupils make these connections but also enliven the teaching. Some mathematical ideas might best be developed in other subjects of the timetable, but in any case good liaison is essential.


These are some of the attitudes, concepts and skills which pupils might be expected to acquire as they progress through school. Pupils vary greatly in their levels of achievement, but it is to be hoped that some work of appropriate difficulty will be undertaken with all pupils across the full range of ideas described below. It is to be hoped

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also that in the process of doing this work pupils will learn to think clearly, argue logically and communicate effectively.

Between the ages of 5 and 8 children should begin work in the following areas:

i. The development of appropriate language; qualitative description, the recognition of objects from description; discriminating, classifying and sorting of objects; identifying objects and describing them unambiguously.
ii. The recognition of common, simple mathematical relationships, both numerical and spatial; reasoning and logical deduction in connection with everyday things, geometrical shapes, number arrangements in order, etc.
iii. The ability to describe quantitatively: the use of number in counting, describing, estimating and approximating.
iv. The understanding of whole numbers and their relationships with one another.
v. The appreciation of the measures in common use; sensible estimation using the appropriate units; the ability to measure length, weight, volume and capacity, area, time, angle and temperature to an everyday level of accuracy.
vi. The understanding of money, contributing to a sense of the value of money, and the ability to carry out sensible purchases.
vii. The ability to carry out practical activities involving the ideas of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
viii. The ability to perform simple calculations involving the mathematical processes indicated by the signs +, - , x, + with whole numbers (maintaining rapid recall of the sums, differences and products of pairs of numbers from 0 to 10).
ix. The ability to check whether the result of a calculation is reasonable.
x. The ability to use and interpret simple forms of diagrams, maps and tabulated information.
xi. An appreciation of two- and three-dimensional shapes and their relationships with one another. The ability to recognise simple properties; to handle, create, discuss and describe them with confidence and appreciate spatial relationships, symmetry and similarity.
xii. An ability to write clearly, to record mathematics in statements, neatly and systematically.
Before the age of 8 for some, but between the ages of 8 and 11 for most, children should continue to develop in these directions, and progress to:
i. The appreciation of place value, the number system and number notation, including whole numbers, decimal fractions and vulgar fractions. The ability to recognise simple number patterns (odds and evens, multiples, divisors, squares, etc).
ii. The ability to carry out with confidence and accuracy simple examples in the four operations of number, including two places of decimals as for pounds and pence and the measures as used.
iii. The ability to approximate.

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iv. A sound understanding of place value applied to the decimal notation for numbers. The ability to carry out the addition and subtraction of numbers with up to two decimal places and the multiplication and division of such numbers by whole numbers up to and including 9.
v. The multiplication and division of numbers with up to two decimal places by 10 and 100.
vi. An appreciation of the connections between fractions, decimal fractions and the most common percentages.
vii. The ability to use fractions in the sequence 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, or 1/3, 1/6, 1/12, or 1/5, 1/10, including the idea of equivalence in the discussion of everyday experiences.
viii. An appreciation of the broader aspects of number, such as bases other than 10 and easy tests of divisibility.
ix. An ability to read with understanding mathematics from books, and to use appropriate reference skills.
A number of children of this age will be capable of more advanced work, and they should be encouraged to undertake it.

The above items are taken from Mathematics 5 to 11 (HMSO, 1979), No. 9 in this series, where the ideas are discussed in greater detail.

After the age of 11 pupils should continue to consolidate the above work and to develop their knowledge further. We give below, for ease of reference by teachers, a self-contained list of objectives for pupils of the ages 11 to 16. This list appeared in the HMI discussion document Curriculum 11-16 (DES, 1977).

i. Feel familiar with and at ease among the whole numbers and their relationships one with another.
ii. Perform with understanding the four operations of arithmetic.
iii. Maintain rapid recall of the sums, differences and products of pairs of numbers from 0 to 10; this will be achieved by continual application to questions which require it.
iv. Apply with understanding the knowledge, concepts and skills of ii and iii to larger numbers.
v. Perform with understanding straightforward operations on simple fractions and decimals.
vi. Understand percentages and use them in simple problems.
vii. Be able to estimate number and approximate.
viii. Appreciate that pocket calculators do not make arithmetic unnecessary; use calculators efficiently and apply checks to ensure accuracy.
ix. Know enough about computers to have no irrational fear of them, and have an appreciation of how logical processes are applied to the manipulation of data.
x. Be able to read tabulated information, as in price lists and timetables, and work out the probable interpretations of unfamiliar information presented in this form.
xi. Know enough about diagrams, charts and graphs to be able to interpret those commonly used for communication.
xii. Know enough about simple statistics to be able to interpret them correctly and not be deceived by them.

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xiii. Be able to perform such calculations about money as are useful in everyday life.
xiv. Be able to estimate and use a variety of instruments to make measurements in mass, length, time, angle and measures derived from these - for example, velocity; appreciate what they are doing when they measure and, in particular, understand approximation; be able to perform with confidence and understanding calculations depending on the measures, particularly those encountered in science and technical studies.
xv. Be able to read and understand clocks and other combinations of dials.
xvi. Solve correctly many real problems in real situations (for example, cut a dress from three metres of cloth, order timber for shelving, use a pocket calculator to tell which size packet of detergent is the 'best buy').
xvii. Handle, create, discuss, write about three-dimensional objects and solve some problems about them physically as well as by calculation and by scale drawing; interpret diagrams, plans and maps; appreciate the abstractions made in all two-dimensional representation.
xviii. Experience and understand pattern in shape and number.
xix. Have some understanding of proportion, both in shape and in number.
xx. Do simple algebra; they should, for example, learn to generalise patterns in arithmetic, be able to understand and use symbols in the context of mathematical statements, and carry out straightforward manipulation of symbols in simple formulae and equations when the need for this is appreciated.
A number of pupils of 16 are capable of more advanced work and should be helped to undertake it.

Mathematics has not hitherto been included as an essential component in the course of every pupil staying on at school after the age of 16, but the proportion of pupils studying mathematics has tended to increase over the years. Furthermore, the feeling that pupils should continue mathematics, at some level, as a preparation for a wide variety of fields of employment and for a wide range of courses in higher and further education continues to grow.

On the appropriate form of mathematics courses for those for whom A level mathematics is unsuitable, there is little agreement. The problem is under discussion in many places, and the various responsible bodies will in due course make their recommendations.

Meanwhile schools can confidently encourage pupils who are capable of studying A level mathematics profitably to do so, as it will continue to be a widely valued qualification. Schools need also to consider what other mathematics courses they should provide, bearing in mind the specific needs of their pupils, local circumstances, and the constraints imposed by limited staffing. When planning mathematics courses at this level, it is important to consider to what extent they should incorporate elements of statistics and computer studies.