Schools may cut curriculum and memories of childhood, school, et al

What part of the “full curriculum” do you think should be sacrificed to concentrate on Maths and, English? Or do you think the State should give up its non-negotiable mandate on what chosen subjects, ideas, or skills should be taught in schools, and let the parents or, God forbid, the pupils have a greater stake in what they want to learn, and when, how, and from whom?

This question is raised to apply to French as well as to British schools, for those who have experience of both, or either, directly or indirectly, as pupils, parents, guardians etc or professionally.

Surely English and Maths are the two most important subjects in the UK, the first being essential for learning any other subject or skill, and the second for being able to work out even the most basic things such as how many tiles are needed for the bathroom wall.

We will be teaching the programme as usual at the rentrée. I can see that British schools could extend the day to catch up, they do pretty much 8.30 to 3.30 but here normal school hours are 8 till 6 plus 2 or 3 hours of prep.


Well if you really want to turn children off education then spend your time concentrating on Maths (probably one of the most poorly taught parts of the curriculum when I was at grammar school in the sixties, I only hope it’s better taught now). English will probably have a less deleterious effect as it has scope for imagination. I’m of the opinion that the bunch of Tories in charge at the moment have little or no interest in the education of the plebs and would not object to lowering the school leaving age back to fourteen as in my mother’s day providing the sums and writing boxes had been ticked.

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i come to this subject from the ‘further education’ arena which was predicated in my case on bba and mba business courses - now somewhat derided in the uk - probably because they have been debased there;
my junior (bba) students were full-time day students aged between eighteen and twenty-four and not yet in employment; they came from a wide background of nationalities but the courses were all in english (out of belgium) why - because it was and remains the primary business language worldwide;
i have to say how often i was surprised at how ill-prepared the english students were in many cases, in their own language especially when written; i agree that english and maths are vital subjects, but i think in today’s world some subjects should be optional - with a world view; citizenship -rights and responsibilities would head my list (even as a compulsory subject) science(s), languages etc should be part _ but optional in detail as they are very wide in themselves; obviously our place and role in the natural world falls into the same category; this is a critical age group to develop social and humanitarian values;
mba courses were for those usually already in employment and wishing to extend their business skills maketing being the most comprehensive and which included no fewer than ten major su-sections in my own courses - excluding detailed economics, accounting etc; not pushing anything but i have published these as booklets and kindle and can be seen on amazon for those interested; at this point one hoped that the bba courses provided a ‘best practises’ base from which to apply the more advanced skills; yes, probably a forlorn hope, but at least i tried! i did find it necessary to issue a dub-text paper in the developing markets - entitled ‘cynicism’ which was to highlight the inescapable human factors involved;
so i feel there should be ‘foundation subjects’ preparing young people for the real world, whilst tryin to imbue lifelong values - and these should start as soon as education starts; optional studies should be added as a students interests develop; above all i do not believe in a one size fits all model after about age ten or so;
when i think of gove in charge of education, i shudder as i do with most dead hands of governmental bureaucracies; the world leaves them behind - and unfortunately too many drowning in their wake;

oh yes no question that computer subjects are now vital - from day one!

It all sounds so easy when you read the telegraph. I’m sure that it will be possible to increase the amount of English and maths taught per day but not by much. Such a curriculum would put most pupils off education for life and ‘cramming’ is not the way to improve standards. In any case although English and maths are taught as discrete subjects they are used across the curriculum. Try teaching history, geography or science without using English and it’s quite likely that maths will be in there somewhere as well. The big task ahead of schools will be getting children back into the routine of learning. Many children will have maintained a pattern of focussed learning throughout lock down many will not. Unfortunately maintaining a familiar pattern of learning will be next to impossible with any form of social distancing. In U.K. schools classrooms tend to be packed with little spare space and collaborative working is often the norm. Equipment levels mean that sharing many items is a necessity.

Did my heart good to read this David. I am a strong believer in the values of ‘liberal education’.

The view of education for the masses as job-training has a long history of entanglement with exploitation. Before the cultural changes of the 60s - an aspect of which were Labour’s educational reforms - for example - the school subject ‘English’ was about Language for the factory-fodder that left school at 14 - drilling in reading and writing - but it was about Literature - imagination, self realisation and cultural exploration - for those privileged to study it at higher levels; moreover, you can chart the rise of the subject ‘English Literature’ at higher education levels directly against the demise of Classics as a marker of class distinction - part of the long transition from aristocracy to bourgeoisie.

(This history has been traced in detail, incidentally, principally by French thinkers like Michel Pêcheux and Pierre Macherey.)

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yes i was one of the ‘factory fodder’ generation and lower working class of the uk leaving school at fifteen in the fifties, and a second class pass certificate in ten useless subjects; maths was a joke and who ever used logarithms from a book of tables anyway; science didn’t exist - and as with previous schools history stopped at the bronze age! geography was about the red bits on the maps that ‘we ruled’ etc; english was a feeble incomprehensible twaddle about shakespeare designed to put us oiks of reading for years or settling down with the trash press still existing today!
i fear it hasn’t got much better over the decades in between; it still makes me angry after all this time!

I was ‘saved’ by the introduction of comprehensive education. Nobody in my family had stayed on at school before me (and I don’t mean just my parents/siblings - I mean any relative at all, however distant). It was assumed by everyone that I would, like them, go into a manual job - even though, at about age 12, and to the surprise of everybody, not least myself, I suddenly got interested in learning. By then I was in a school without a 6th form, and in which nobody even took O-Levels. Luckily, when I was about 14, the roll-out of comprehensive schools reached us. To the complete astonishment - and some anger - of many of the old stuck-up pupils, teachers and parents, I subsequently came top in the year in the merged schools.


Mentioning Comprehensive schools reminded me of something. I went to a comprehensive but at sixth form met a lot of people who had been to a nearby Grammar school. It was interesting, they had had a very narrow education and had almost no general knowledge at all. Their primary schools had targeted the 11 plus and the Grammar school focussed on a narrow range of academic subjects. I’m sure that there are a lot of people on here who believe that the Grammar pupils got the better education but I’m so glad I followed the path that I did.

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Me too David - those woodwork, metalwork, technical drawing and ‘rural studies’ lessons have proven very useful throughout my life - catching up on academic subjects, which can be done relatively easily at home without lots of expensive tools and equipment, is relatively easy.

Such is the power of books, my assumption being that your interest in learning derived at least partly from reading. Or perhaps, a gifted and devoted role model, perhaps, a teacher?

Tell us more, Geof, your story is in itself an inspiration.

My father, God bless his resting soul, left school at 12 when his father died suddenly (in 1923) leaving his mother alone to support seven younger siblings and face the Great Depression.

When I was 5 he bought me a set of of 20 Illustrated Encyclopaedias of World Knowledge from a door-to-door salesman, on instalments. I was already able to read fluently, my parents taught me before I started school. That memory of him has sometimes made me sob like a broken-hearted child, as I have never wept before.


We learned to read on my Dad’s books, including Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia… umpteen volumes… (which my elder brother nicknamed Arthur Sneeze :slight_smile: )

Like Peter, we could all read before going to school… books were an amazing source of information… and wonder… :hugs:

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I rather think that some parents don’t have the time and/or motivation to teach their children to read these days, but I am complete ignorance of the facts on how many do, and how many don’t.

I expect some genuinely don’t know where to start, added to which modern (especially visual technology) has undermined the need to read, as well as subduing the imaginative faculties by saturating them with pre-prepared stimulus. Some parents may have concerns about treading on pedagogic toes, or interfering with their child’s educational progress.

Any other perspectives or experiences? :thinking::innocent:

My parents merely made things available to us, which they had enjoyed during their childhood. With 4 children at Primary/Junior school… there was always someone chanting times-tables… spellings… reading aloud… etc etc and one “picked things up” to begin with and then one moved forward under one’s own steam.

Parents and grandma would answer any questions which we could not find the answer to amongst ourselves or in the multitude of books.

We also had the windup gramophone with the steel needles and a selection of 78rpm records… Slow boat to China… Manuel and his music of the mountains… Albert Chevalier monologues…

those were the days, my friend… we thought they’d never end… :grin: :hugs:

You might be correct in thinking schools nowadays do not welcome too much “early learning”… they dont’ seem to chant their tables anymore… :frowning:

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Tables are chanted but there is far more emphasis on understanding what the words to the song mean. Tables tests will often include a lot of division questions as well. A lot of older people moan because tables end at the ten times not twelve. That’s partly due to the metric world that we’ve all lived in since the mid 1970s, over 40 years ago but also because (many) KS2 children could give you the answer to the 17 or 19 times table. They have learnt to do, for example, 17x6= 10x6 + 7x6 = 60+42=102. For them the 11 and 12 times tables answers are easy.

might well be a regional thing… my young grandson thought it was a hoot when I started chanting tables… :wink:

However they do it… IMO the most important thing is to make things interesting… whatever the subject.

Incidentally… since we moved to France some of my Senior School maths jingles have come in useful…

fiddle dee dum, fiddle dee dee
a ring round the moon equals pi times d

without a thought… I chanted that at OH when he was figuring out the circumference of something (I forget what)… he looked at me as if I was daft… until he realized that it worked… :wink: :wink:

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How old is your grandson? Another thing is that many people remember learning things much earlier than they will have done.

He was 10 at the time… … and he has never chanted tables…

I was chanting tables (before I even understood what they were about). on my way to Primary School with my elder siblings… … and the friends who walked with us… so I would have been four and a half … and onwards… we would all have been under 11

As you say their are differences from place to place and indeed from school to school. It’s amazing how much children learn from each other.

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