We were right – curriculum changes have been a success

We were right – curriculum changes have been a success

Former schools and education minister Nick Gibb has penned an article in the Telegraph in which he rightly points out the success of curriculum changes.

He notes: “We have now had the results of the international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey of the maths, reading and science attainment of 15-year-olds across 81 countries. It was conducted in 2022 and focused particularly on maths. There are several caveats to be aware of, but the headline is that England rose from 17th place in 2018 to 11th place in 2022.”

As one of the members of the committee responsible for redrafting the primary curriculum in maths, I fully concur with his summation.

Some of the philosophy behind the changes are detailed in this part of the column: “Since 2010, Conservative governments have introduced extensive reforms to our education system, particularly in how children are taught to read (where England is now fourth in the world for the reading ability of 9-year-olds) but also in maths. We re-wrote the National Curriculum for primary school maths, learning from high-performing countries such as Singapore. “

He mentions Singapore which is interesting because they copied what we used to do, and now we are copying them back. It’s like African missionaries coming here to teach us what our missionaries taught their forbears in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There are a few fundamentals that I believe in, which I pushed for when advising the government.

It is my contention that times tables should be learned by the end of Year 4 – when children are nine.

Column addition and subtraction as well as long multiplication and division must be taught during the primary years.

These are the foundation stones of maths and if they are in place then children can build upon them.

And the best way for young children to learn is through traditional teaching methods.

We want all children to be free and independent-thinking individuals but progressive approaches at the very beginning of education lead to confusion. Play approaches are useful up to year 2, but by year 3 children should be taught in a more systematic way. This provides key foundational skills.

Maths is a system of knowledge, and the basics must be put in place before mathematical experimentation (that involves critical thinking) takes place.

The Pisa rankings prove that the changes have been successful. I commend Nick Gibb for his forward thinking regarding the primary curriculum. His instincts were right and now we have the evidence to prove it.

It is just a shame that education was captured by progressives who let down several generations of children with their unproven techniques.