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Children's learning at risk from narrowing curriculum, teachers warn

CHILDREN’S learning is at risk from the “narrowing” of the curriculum, the National Education Union (NEU) said yesterday as a report warned of poor primary-school performance in maths.

A study published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and the UCL institute of education used the results of international maths tests taken by youngsters in 56 countries and economies in 2015 and converted them into key-stage 2 (known as Sats) assessment scores for 2016.

Sats are taken by 11-year-olds in England, with pupils given a scaled score. To reach the expected standard, a pupil’s score must be at least 100. Researchers estimate that the average scaled score of the top-performing nations is 107, compared to 104 in England.

In the top-performing nations, which include Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, an average of 90 per cent of pupils would have achieved the expected standard in the maths Sats test. In England the figure is just 75 per cent.

EPI executive director Natalie Perera said: “The biggest cause for concern is the huge gulf between England’s top-performing primary pupils and those lagging behind at the bottom, one of the largest out of all developed countries.”

But NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “This is a disappointing report which offers little that can help the real work of school improvement.

“Primary schools in England are hampered by a narrow and test-driven curriculum, which overworks teachers and damages the classroom experience of children.

“The effect of the EPI report will be to make this situation worse.  It will ramp up the pressure for higher test scores in mathematics and, in the process, narrow further the curriculum.”


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