UK children's exposure to science and arts 'hijacked'

Nov 05, 2007

A ten year review of primary education has found that children are now taught an 'alarming' amount of maths and English at the expense of science, arts and the humanities compared to ten years ago.

The root of the problem, according to The University of Manchester researchers, is the national curriculum's emphasis on testing the 'core subjects' of maths and English.

The team examined national data from 1997 to 2007 collected by The University of Manchester on behalf of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Primary schools were asked to detail the percentage of teaching time devoted to each subject for every school year. The findings were due to be presented to the now defunct select committee for education and skills this year.

Dr Bill Boyle, who is based at the School of Education said: "The often quoted issue of whether 'standards' have risen or not is really relevant against the huge 'deprivation' of children's exposure to foundation subjects. That is the real issue.

"And this unique ten year data set shows incontrovertibly that teachers are forced to devote more time to teaching maths and English and less time to the other subjects.

"It's scandalous that around 51 per cent of teaching activity is now on two subjects - leaving a paltry 49 per cent for all the others.

"This resonates strongly with many current concerns- but one of the biggest worries is over secondary school and higher education 'pick up' of science.

"Where are we going to find our young scientists if primary education neglects this import area?"

He added: "The core of the problem is the pressure exerted by central government on schools to raise standards in English and mathematics.

"The narrow concept of a core curriculum - politically valued because it is tested - reinforces shallow teaching and learning practice. In other words teachers are being forced to teach for test.

"With the introduction of national numeracy and literacy strategies and the percentage 'success level' targets centrally set for national test pupil outcomes, some reduction of foundation subjects in favour of the tested core subjects was always inevitable.

"But it is the extent of the diminution of the foundation, as evidenced by our data, which is alarming."

"It conflicts with what teachers want. And Ofsted argues that the curriculum should be balanced and allow adequate development of each subject area."

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study identifies common elements of STEM schools

Jan 28, 2015

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics schools vary in many ways, but they share eight major common elements. So finds a nationwide study of 23 STEM schools conducted by the University of Chicago's Outlier Research ...

China air quality dire but improving: Greenpeace

Jan 22, 2015

The skies of China's notoriously smog-filled cities saw a marginal amelioration last year, according to figures released by Greenpeace Thursday, but pollution remained far above national and international ...

Recommended for you

Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

Jan 30, 2015

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call him ...

Sundance doc examines real-life Close Encounter

Jan 29, 2015

Earth authorities are completely unprepared for the arrival of alien visitors and worried humans should ready themselves by watching a groundbreaking documentary, the film's director boasts.

Toward a scientific process freed from systemic bias

Jan 26, 2015

Research on how science works - the science of science - can benefit from studying the digital traces generated during the research process, such as peer-reviewed publications. This type of research is crucial for the future ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

HarryStottle
5 / 5 (1) Nov 18, 2007
Good example of where politicians should not be allowed to tread...
superhuman
not rated yet Feb 14, 2008
Math, Informatics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, English, History, Geography, Economy.
Thats how I would place priorities.
But in case of math its important how you teach it, emphasis should be on understanding important concepts and developing abstract thinking, not on memorizing ways of solving problems.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.