Primary school debate
30 Sep 2009
Listening back to tonight's BBC Radio 4 debate on the future for primary schools, it became clear to me where the big divide lies.
It is - and I suppose always has been - between those, on the one hand, who think primary schools should be all about the child and their development in terms of skills and ability to learn and, on the other hand, those who think it's all about the subject knowledge that children should have absorbed by the age of 11.
Both views are too simple but I lean towards the former: by the end of primary school you hope children have been prepared for further learning, by developing the skills of enquiry, by acquiring the key skills of literacy and numeracy, and by remaining eager and curious to learn.
There is plenty of time in early secondary school for covering some of the essential knowledge (and I think there should be some agreement on what that knowledge is e.g. a broad chronological understanding of history, a sense of the geography of the world etc).
So we should avoid getting bogged down in the traditionalist vs. progressive, or subject-centred vs. child-centred, debate. It's about when we should focus on development and skills, and when we should focus more on subject knowledge, that counts. Not one or the other.