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Phonics fast and first
The key shift in UK government policy on reading has in many ways already happened, since the government published the 'Importance of Teaching' White Paper back in Autumn 2010, insisting that all children should be taught to read using this method above all others. The phonics funding initiative followed, as did the Phonics reading test for 6 year olds, and the requirement for schools to publish their results through the RAISE database. With the new curriculum, synthetic phonics officially passes into the programmes of study at every year.
Focus on the fundamentals
There’s a much deeper focus on learning grammar explicitly. Where the current curriculum requires that pupils be taught ‘some of the grammatical features of written standard English’, and learn to ‘consider’ language structure when composing their own texts, the new curriculum contains a long list of often complex grammatical concepts, punctuation and spelling rules that children will have to identify and label as well as use.
Reading for pleasure
While there is a perception that the new curriculum is a little dry and technical, this view overlooks the new curriculum's clearly stated intention that children should read widely and voraciously for pleasure and for meaning. While the current curriculum also stipulates that children should experience a range of literature and non-fiction and non-literary texts - the new curriculum highlights the pivotal role of schools in ensuring that reading takes place beyond the school gates, stating 'they should provide library facilities and set ambitious expectations for reading at home.'
Recitation and debate
There was a lot made of this following the release of the draft programmes of study, with the Independent reporting that 'children as young as five will be expected to learn and recite poetry by heart.' The current curriculum, however, already states that children in Key Stage 1 should 'learn, recite and act out stories and poems', while in fact the new programmes of study (the mandatory portion of the curriculum as opposed to the notes and guidance) only require that children learn to 'participate in discussions, presentations, performances, role play, improvisations and debates.' So in this respect, it seems that it's up to the individual school to set their own spoken language activities.
Levels are going
The government has announced that National curriculum levels will be abolished and be replaced. Schools will be expected to report to parents on children's progress (they can decide as a school how to do this). They will also be expected to report to parents on their children's SATs results using 10 ability bands worked out on a national level. The government could introduce new 'baseline' assessments of pupils at the age of five. Find out more