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back to article New UK curriculum ramps up lessons in SPAAAACE

British children will be taught more about the solar system and evolution in an overhaul of the primary school curriculum proposed yesterday by Education Secretary Michael Gove. Gove reckons his new draft lesson plan will "restore rigour" to classrooms by bumping up the amount of stuff kids have to learn: in science that will …

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So, in summary, they're going to change the curriculum back to how it was twenty years ago?

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I was just thinking that.

When I was in primary school, the times tables always went up to 12 x 12. Sometimes it went up to 15 x 15. And it wasn't as simple as just doing them once after just memorising them and then forgetting about it, you had to do the whole times table, using your head, aloud, in front of the class, with zero warning, without hesitating or you were told to sit down. And at regular intervals, those who were still missing certain times tables on their record for that month / term / whatever were rebuked and forced to do them.

This is when I was 8, not 12, in a bog-standard inner-city state primary school. I ended up with a maths degree (despite being regarded as atrociously bad at mental arithmetic at the time - something I now attribute to poor memory and stage-fright more than mathematical capability - but apparently a lot better than most kids these days). We did planets, we did evolution, we did velocity (literally, not just speed), we did experiments, we did apostrophes, we did poetry. And I tell you now, Singapore are going to be yelling at the UK. Suggesting that our standards come ANYWHERE near theirs for general education is ridiculous.

Although any kind of improvement is welcome (yes, current education is JUST THAT BAD in the UK), this is a teensy first step to getting back to where we were, not making great advances. But still parents will moan that their children are being worked too hard. Incidentally, I never had ANY homework when I was in primary school and had only minimal amounts throughout secondary school, so god-knows what they are doing in class now that everyone has hours of government-mandated homework each week and STILL they couldn't even attempt a GCSE Maths paper back from when I was a kid - and even back then, the 60's O-level papers were a sure way to scare the hell out of any child studying for exams because of their HUGELY increased complexity compared to even the 90's papers.

Kids these days LITERALLY don't know how easy they have it.

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"But still parents will moan that their children are being worked too hard."

The problem is not with kids being worked too hard - it's about them being taught how to pass endless stupid exams just by remembering keywords and without understanding of the underlying principles of the subject.

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Anonymous Coward

Make them spend 29 hours a day down t'mill, eat a cup of cold gravel, etc...

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Anonymous Coward

apostrophe's, surely?

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Anonymous Coward

I'm just off to the greengrocer's to buy some potatoe's.

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PLEASE STOP!

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Anonymous Coward

PLEA'S, surely?

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Anonymous Coward

So when is the announcement...

.....That the school day will be 2 hours longer to fit in all these new foci.

Gove has a new initiative on an almost daily basis....I've had managers with longer attention spans!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They need to do something

To turn back the smoke and mirrors approach to to improving annual results while our competitors continue to do better. Gove is one of perhaps a couple of Cabinet Ministers I have any sympathy towards. His assessment of education's problems are broadly right and he is trying to get something done about it. Pity is on the the lunatic fringe of the party.

AC because I almost admitted liking a Tory.

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Re: So when is the announcement...

The school day wasn't two hours longer back when I was in school, and tehy still did teach all of this stuff. Then again, they didn't have all the 'citizenship' crap and other content-light fluffy nonsense back then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So when is the announcement...

Back in the day you talk about, it was considered more acceptable for the bottom half of the class to attain much less than the clever kids, and the teacher still be considered ok at their job. Nowadays you need for no child to apparently fail, and you need to see inflation year-on-year in the top end and mean success rates in assessments. Inflation means a healthy economy, right?

Being a successful teacher in the UK is now all about engineering the results of the tests - if an able kid accidentally comes to understand and know some stuff then that certainly helps them to succeed, but the teaching system is no longer geared to use this as the prime way of getting them to attain the desired results.

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Re: So when is the announcement...

I don't remember you working for me?

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Shocked I tell you....

....that Britain will avoid the Intelligent Design crap going on elsewhere!

Focus on encouraging critical thinking and the little tykes may have a chance!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Shocked I tell you....

Fair enough but AFAIK the "primordial ooze" is an obsolete theory already. Keep up with the times Reg.

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Re: Shocked I tell you....

Sadly under Gove, academy schools can follow their own curriculums provided they are 'balanced'.

So there are religious schools planned which will be teaching creationist / intelligent design/ lying to children in the UK.

But the pressing question has to be does the proposal tell us if Pluto is a planet or not?

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Re: Shocked I tell you....

And let's face it, probably their only chance. We don't make anything, don't have any natural resources, if we can't produce a highly-educated population, what exactly shall we be bringing to the party?

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thought they *were* doing that

As alistair nted above - when did that stop? thats what i did at school.

I Guess it was around the time that some bright spark said:

"Why the hell have we got three separate science lessons? Thats just a waste - we could roll them all into one and get the kids all scienced up for a third of the effort"

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Why 12x12?

Wasn't that for old money?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why 12x12?

and certain areas where more fingers were available.

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Re: Why 12x12?

But why not 20 x 20 table? Most of us have 10 fingers, thumbs and toes combined.

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Facepalm

Re: Why 12x12?

Indeed it was and it's a pointless limit. Even more so these days.

They'd be much better off learning what numbers actually are and the concept of different bases as well as building the logic to work out complex mental arithmetic rather than being taught to mindlessly recite the result of a specific (simple) calculation.

It's almost as bad as "learning the kings of England" - i.e. learning heir names and the various key dates about them but none of the stuff that actually makes history worth bothering about.

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Re: Why 12x12?

"It's almost as bad as "learning the kings of England""

Is it just as boring as "learning General Secretaries of the Central Committee of the CPSU" and "learning dates and proceedings of Party Congresses"? That put me off history for good, I'll tell you.

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Re: Why 12x12?

Thankfully we only had 8bit machines when I was at school.

Learning your 2^64 x 2^64 times table is a real pain

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This is just for England and Wales, not all of the UK

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Anonymous Coward

Too much added, not enough removed

I'm all for them adding spelling and grammar to English. I mean, grammar is atrocious. The amount of times I've had to correct native English speakers which there / their / they're to use it absurd.

I wish they'd drop some of the over-information they're pumping into other units though. Geography; history; regligious education. Strip that down, let them learn it in primary school and then remove it from secondary. I mean for goodness sake, there's only so much of it which is worth learning. Most of senior school was just going over the stuff we'd learnt in junior school. At least make them optional for the kids that enjoyed it.

Likewise I somewhat wish they'd get rid of DT and swap it out for actual household skills, and let them specialise when they get older. They try to teach kids to make things like pasta bakes etc, all the while skipping over what they actually might eat when they're all grown up. We're taught how to create a circuit and solder wires onto a radio, but we aren't taught how to wire a plug, or what to do if the power goes out.

Loads of basic skills which could be covered. If they like the basic skills, let them take a course in carpenty / electonics / plumbing etc when they reach options.

Focus maths on something useful. Kids don't see the point in learning maths because they can't apply it, so teach them maths in a way which lets them apply it to real world situations. Don't just tell them "Because you'll need it" because that's a load of bull.

At least they're fixing english though, that's a start.

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Headmaster

Re: Too much added, not enough removed

Maybe boiling an egg and wiring a plug is what schools assume are taught at home.

They are in mine.

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Re: Too much added, not enough removed

I think you've mistaken education for employment training. Education isn't there solely to get you a skilled labour job, for instance, but to make your life easier even if you don't use those skills in your job (e.g. working out the APR on a credit card).

In the schools I've worked in, the humanities get little time and attention anyway. Removing it from secondary school would only serve to make the available interests disappear more into Art vs Science for students.

DT is a bit worthless now but I'm not sure that pasta bakes shouldn't be taught. Do you expect only to teach how to make a Sunday Roast and an English Breakfast? Cooking is cooking and provides skills applicable to all meals and - incidentally - introduces students to a large section of international culture, encourages them to try new things, etc. Cooking is not about heating up ingredients until they're brown (which, incidentally, is how I cook and never experiment). I agree that cooking should be more focused - they literally should be expected to cook one meal each a week (unlike the once-per-year that I had), it's such an important part of life and SO many people can't do without a microwave nowadays. And with healthy-eating initiatives, there's REALLY nothing wrong with a good pasta bake compared to the junk the average UK household eats.

You are still taught to wire a plug. It's the other stuff that's gone out of the window (soldering especially!) because of the fecking H&S junk that schools are burdened with (and, incidentally, this is also the cause of the decline of DT which used to be metalwork and woodwork in my father's day, was making a small wooden box and spending months commenting on the design and marketing in my day, and is now making little cardboard toys because they can't use a great deal of tools unsupervised any more). Carpenty, plumbing would come into that if we did it properly, like we used to. Electronics is all-but dead in the average school because nobody knows how to teach it, let alone can fund it and find time for it beyond making a bulb light when you press a switch.

Maths in real-world situations? You don't understand how maths works. You're confusing arithmetic with maths. Arithmetic is for dumbing it down only when they struggle, maths itself is infinitely more than that and a specialism in itself. I'm all for separating off the specialist stuff and having "real-world" maths (i.e. arithmetic and simple physics) but then you have to make that part absolutely compulsory and they don't pass without competency in it (which is a struggle enough in itself).

How would you like it if we said that electronics should only be taught in "real-world situations", like never making a circuit and if you do, you hire a PCB designer and autorouter to do the hard work of making an over-powered, generic chip do all the work in software? That's "real-world" nowadays, because you can't even touch most electronics these days without stupid amounts of specialised equipment (e.g. PoP, SMD, etc.). And, incidentally, without maths your electronics won't work. Even calculating a simple charge-discharge cycle for a simple RC circuit is beyond current students.

Maths is the same - "real-world maths" is adding up and times tables and balancing your chequebook. That's not maths, and if you think it is, you missed the point of shoving maths down your throat for all those years. Real-world maths you could teach in a year - that's what primary school did for me, for instance - and then get onto some real interesting stuff. Trouble is, our kids still can't do their 10 times tables at age 11 currently!

What we need is less spoon-feeding and more teaching, as well as giving you an incentive to learn - in some European countries you DO NOT GRADUATE until you have completed all the basic courses. You will literally spend your teenage years in the first year classes until you pass them, while all your mates move on and laugh at you. This continues through high-school until you are 20 if you're not too bright and they will just keep making you re-take those years. This a) makes you want to learn, b) puts the fear of failure into you, c) makes you worry for job prospects if you're lazy, d) makes sure your classmates aren't held back so you can learn 2+2, e) keeps you busy and thinking rather than languishing at the back of a class you don't understand. Hell, in Italy, the high-schools could fail you and put you back a year because you misbehaved too much during the year or were late (and what perfect incentive to behave and be on time!).

Go to a university. Find a foreign student. Ask about their education. If you don't come away SO relieved at the easy way you went through school compared to them, you should be ashamed.

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Headmaster

'AC 11:56 Re: Too much added, not enough removed

"The amount of times I've had to correct native English speakers ..."

That should be "The number of times ...", since you're referring to a set of events which are countable. You could say "The amount of time I've had to spend .....".

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Headmaster

Re: Too much added, not enough removed

"The amount of times I've had to correct native English speakers which there / their / they're to use it absurd."

How about "number of times"?

"... fixing english ..."

I think you mean English.

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Headmaster

Re: Too much added, not enough removed

"The amount of times I've had to correct native English speakers..."

I know about common usage, but does anyone else cringe when the word 'amount' is used instead of 'number'?

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Headmaster

Re: Too much added, not enough removed

"The amount of times I've had to correct native English speakers which there / their / they're to use it absurd."

"....is absurd"

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Re: Too much added, not enough removed

Wiring a plug is almost redundant now with mandated pre-moulded plugs that can only have the fuse replaced. Can't remember the last time I took one apart. or had to fit one.

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Happy

Re: Too much added, not enough removed

Yesterday...

Replaced a damaged 3-pin plug on an extension cable, whilst showing my 12 year old son the correct way to wire it, explaining the difference between AC and DC, the importance of earthing appliances (and plumbing pipes)...

As a 12 year old (as I was back in the day), he was delighted to cut the wires to length, strip insulation with an appropriate tool, and to use a soldering iron to tin the exposed wire.

We've cut, shaped and tested boomerangs - and I've had him help with oil changes. These one-to-one sessions engender a huge variety of tangential discussions about how car engines work, how they parallel systems within the human body, aerodynamics, time and space... the list goes on. Kids *love* to learn, and when I don't know how to explain something, Mr Google is a helping hand to getting into further reading.

It all begins in the home, and sometimes with just a 3-pin plug, changing a tyre, whatever.

Working in the education supply industry I really applaud any effort to get kids extending their understanding and cognitive abilities; even a cursory look at 'examination' papers these days reveals them to be easier and more leading than an 11+ paper.

Hell, carrying on this rant (sorry OP) - I use 11+ questions in interview aptitude situations for new recruits, degree-level candidates who crap out at levels around 30% are not invited back. The guys working for me now managed between 85% and 100% (and those at 85% wanted to go back and re-do the questions - kicking themselves for obvious errors).

I'll shut up now, must just be the afternoon logorrhea.

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Headmaster

English, motherf*cker

Can they speak it?

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@JetSetJimRe: Too much added, not enough removed

JetSetJim wrote :- "Wiring a plug is almost redundant now with mandated pre-moulded plugs that can only have the fuse replaced. Can't remember the last time I took one apart"

You are easily satisfied. I rarely find the supplied plug and lead are the right length, usually too short. So I either have to wire an in-line extension (trickier than a plug) or I take the new appliance apart and fit a longer cable.to which I fit a wireable plug (from my stock of cable and plugs), throwing away the original - what a waste of resources, especially the copper (but see note below). No, I dont like extension leads for appliances that are to be fixed.

For example I have a Black and Decker hot air stripper, the lead of which is to short to allow me to reach the picture rail or upper part of a door with it plugged into a normal wall socket (do these manufactures ever try their own stuff for real?). I don't want the weight of an extension socket hanging when I am stripping a picture rail.

I also like to have the same design of plug throughout my house, a solid quality design. Many of the re-wirable ones are the cheapest crap the appliance maker can source.

Note : I do keep the original cable for the guarantee period to replace if I need to return it.

Note 2 : Why the hell aren't appliances supplied with chassis plugs so we can buy a lead of required length separately (which could then be non-rewirable)?

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FAIL

Re: @JetSetJimToo much added, not enough removed

heh if you buy a HP officejet pro 8000 deskjet printer it will come with a 2pin ac lead to the transformer that is about 8 inches long - wont even reach the floor from a plughole!

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Re: Too much added, not enough removed

Lee, have you ever considered running for Parliament? You'd get my vote.

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One reason why it can't work

12 times table, poetry, planets, apostrophes. Hell! by the age of 10 these kids will be better educated than the average primary school teacher. What happens then?

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Re: One reason why it can't work

That is going to be the BIG problem, even the secondary school teachers are not up to the required standard.

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Anonymous Coward

Conversation with teenagers last week :-

16 Y.O.:- What's the capital of Australia?

14 Y.O.:- I don't know. It should be Sydney but I think that's wrong.

Dad butting in :- Well think of a few places - lets start with A - Adelaide? <pause> Brisbane? <pause> Come on, you must know of a few places in Australia?

14 Y.O. :- No

Dad:- How about Alice Springs?

14 Y.O.:-- Who's Alice Springs?

Mr Gove sure has a hill to climb.

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Re: Conversation with teenagers last week :-

My girlfriend has a doctorate. She was taking a class (not in a school, but a research university) with some biology students. I'm combining several anecdotes into one, but once she had a degree student ask her what a neck was (there was no miscommunication, they did not know the word despite having a degree from an English university in biology).

She's had to explain to post-doc students that, no, you cannot sex a skeleton by the number of ribs (god damn religion!).

She's eternally frustrated at the inability for even post-doc researchers to do a simple cross-multiplication or even try to solve the stated problem another way (the problem was "you have X concentration of fluid A in beaker A, how do you turn it into a Y concentration of fluid A when you have a Z concentration of fluid A in the supply cupboard?" - something that comes up ALL THE TIME when you're doing the job they were doing).

Those are just the "WTF!?" ones that she has to tell me the second she gets home. She had constant battles and eventually avoided any and all teaching (even to post-doc and post-grad researchers in a research lab) to focus on her research and her job. Almost without fail, they are all English students educated in English schools and universities.

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Re: Conversation with teenagers last week :-

"She's had to explain to post-doc students that, no, you cannot sex a skeleton by the number of ribs (god damn religion!)."

I hate to tell you - they were just pulling her leg.

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Re: Conversation with teenagers last week :-

I assure you, they were not. They even quoted their "bible" (whichever one it was) at her. They left the science soon after, too, but whether that was directly related or not is anyone's guess.

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Mushroom

Evolution............wait till the New Earth Order and the Religious clans get a hold of that one like they have in America boy the ciriculum will be in turmoil.

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Medical?

I thought the M in STEM stood for Medicine, as surely one must teach maths as part of Science, and Engineering? At least it was when I studied HNC Electronic Engineering! Why is medicine being missed off? Medical research is an incredibly important part of science and calls on many disciplines.

So I have to ask: Why are we still not teaching first-aid in schools? Why do we have a nation of hypochondriacs who call for an ambulance when they cut their finger? Why does the news have to keep educating people on how to spot certain diseases? Do they forget as soon as they turn the TV off? I see no reason why kids should not be leaving school as fully qualified first-aiders - after all, you can tie biology into the training: here is your blood - it's a good idea to keep it inside. And if the Channel 4 series 'The Sex Education Show' is anything to go by, sex-ed needs a serious overhaul as well

I also feel that maths should teach you how to balance a house-hold budget and explain all of the APR meanings. The applied mathematics I learned for electronics has remained whilst the theoretical stuff has been flushed from the brain. Home-economics should either teach about mortgages and budgets, or be renamed as "Cooking" and taught as such! Biology can teach about bugs and food safety as a tie-in. We clearly need survival lessons and thunderstorm safety as people are still standing under trees and wondering why they get blasted. PE should include self-defence training and swimming. For a country where you cannot get more than 76 miles from the coast, it is abysmal that so many people cannot swim!

Just my 2 pence!

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Re: Medical?

"here is your blood - it's a good idea to keep it inside"

In 'O'-level biology (early '70s), we used to prick our thumbs with lancets to get blood samples for microscopic examination and demonstrations of blood typing. I still have the scars at the base of my left thumbnail. As a result of this early exposure to blood and pain, I can perform minor operations on my own body when it gets penetrated by wood splinters and metal fragments, with no bother at all apart from the ocassional swearword.

Kids nowadays eh?

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Think or swim

> For a country where you cannot get more than 76 miles from the coast, it is abysmal that so many people cannot swim!

But given the state of geography teaching today, that's a moot point.

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Sissies!

"Kids nowadays eh?"

Quite! My friend's 13-year old son would not walk a few hundred metres along a darkish trackway to meet his father's car, so my friend caved in and went and got him. I used to ride my bike miles out in the country lanes with quite pathetic battery lights - pathetic compared to the LED lights I have today. If I wanted to go somewhere, it was "on yer bike!" from my parents. The afore mentioned friend is older than me, so it's not just the younger generations creating a nation of sissies!

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Re: What's Pi?

"But given the state of geography teaching today, that's a moot point."

I only saw a clip of Educating Essex as it was shown on Anglia News. When the blonde girl, whom I suspect to have been around 14 or 15, suddenly asks what Pi is and where it came from, I realised society is doomed! Another education documentary was asking kids to identify towns from dots on a map. One girl complained that if she wanted to know where Exeter was, she would get on a train. I would have loved to dump her in London and tell her to find her way!

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