International Primary Curriculum

By John Hayward 12 May 2009


Following yesterday's publication of Sir Jim Rose's Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum, last night I was at a governors' meeting discussing the possible introduction of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) to my children's primary school in September.

The IPC is a topic-based curriculum that focuses on a combination of academic, personal, and international learning, with 'innovative, exciting, engaging and real ways to learn'. Core subjects - including science, mathematics, history, art, language, and geography - are taught through topics such as the Rainforest, Mission to Mars and Beyond, Chocolate, Fit for Life, The Olympics and Making the News, each one lasting two to six weeks.

The question is, how should this be evaluated? Yesterday's report from Sir Jim Rose identified as a central requirement of the review the need 'to reduce prescription and overload by reviewing the current programmes of study so that schools have greater flexibility to meet pupils' individual needs and build on their prior learning.' It went on to recommend that the primary curriculum be organised into six areas of learning: Understanding English, communication and languages; Mathematical understanding; Scientific and technological understanding; Historical, geographical and social understanding; Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing; and Understanding the arts.

Now, interestingly, Ofsted published a report last October into schools that felt that the minimum requirements of the National Curriculum did not give the best possible support to learners' achievement and personal development and that wanted to improve their curriculum provision. High performing schools studied had introduced at least one of the following four categories of curriculum innovation:

  • Organising the curriculum around themes which drew from different subjects.
  • Reorganising the school day or adjusting the school year to allocate longer blocks of time to activities.
  • Introducing a number of pathways through Key Stages 3 and 4 in order to meet the needs of learners of all abilities and interests.
  • Developing pupils' learning skills.

Ofsted's 'Curriculum Innovation' noted that 'The most successful innovations focused on developing a range of essential skills and attitudes for pupils' personal development, which underpinned their ability to learn effectively ... The curriculum innovations in the survey generally provided strong support for pupils' social development. From early on, they had many opportunities to work collaboratively, in pairs and in groups, and to develop the skills of teamwork and leadership. They also had rich opportunities for discussion and debate, often with representatives from the wider community and business. This was more than an academic exercise, since they tackled real issues with real people.'

So, it appears the IPC potentially has a lot to offer and I now look forward to seeing a presentation on it next Tuesday. Yet, I am reminded of an anecdote from a letter I received recently: 'On the CofE's "Education Sunday" in 2008 I listened in church to the CofE's National Director of Education describing education in CofE schools. I found it insipid and asked him afterwards if the object of education was the pursuit of wisdom. Surely this has been its purpose in all civilisations of which there are records, but it was clear that the idea was not uppermost in his mind.'

Watch out soon for a Christian 'Point of View' on education that the Jubilee Centre is developing in partnership with a number of other Christian education organisations!

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