HC Deb 29 January 1998 vol 305 cc491-2
8. Mr. Fearn

What plans he has to introduce a new national curriculum for primary schools within the next five years. [24186]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Ms Estelle Morris)

We plan to introduce a revised national curriculum from September 2000. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for State announced plans on 13 January to give primary schools more time to focus on literacy and numeracy for the next two academic years.

Mr. Fearn

Does the Minister agree that, in the past few years art, music and sport have been squeezed out of the curriculum? Are there any plans to bring those subjects back into the curriculum? I visit quite a few primary schools, and they all say that those subjects have been squeezed out because of the limited time allowed in the curriculum.

Ms Morris

I am not sure that those subjects have been squeezed out: they have not been dropped from the national curriculum. Those and the other core and foundation subjects have a place, and are taught in schools. Long may that remain so, because the subjects to which the hon. Gentleman referred are important, and are part of a broad and balanced curriculum for our children.

Helen Jones

Does the Minister agree with me and with the primary school teachers in my constituency who responded to the White Paper that the primary curriculum has been overloaded and prescriptive? They wanted more flexibility, and more time to concentrate on literacy and numeracy, which is what the Secretary of State's proposed in his recent announcement.

Ms Morris

I agree with my hon. Friend. That is exactly the message that we have received from teachers and parents. Parents made it clear in their response to the White Paper that their overriding priorities were, quite rightly, literacy and numeracy. The proposal that my right hon. Friend announced last week will enable teachers to exercise their professional judgment. In delivering that broad and balanced curriculum, they will now have the freedom to concentrate on literacy and numeracy. If those skills are taught before the end of key stage 2, children will have greater access to the broad curriculum when they reach secondary school.

Mr. Dorrell

I agree that it is desirable for the national curriculum to focus on the essential core, as was always the intention, but why will the Government not publish the results of key stage 2 tests at the end of children's primary education: tests against that curriculum? Does the Minister recollect that, last March, the Secretary of State pledged a future Labour Government to national publication of the test results—not local publication by local education authorities, but national publication by the Department? Why are the Government breaking that pledge?

Ms Morris

The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I thought that he was going to congratulate the Government on publishing key stage 2 test results a full two months earlier than his party did when in office.

The results have been published locally for parents—

Mr. Dorrell


Ms Morris

They will be published nationally, so that everyone will be able to see how local authorities and schools are performing. I understand that the local authority figures will be published next week, and that the others will be published when they are available. We always said that they would be put on the internet.

The key point, however, is that parents, who have a right to know how local authorities and schools are performing, received the information two full months earlier than they did under the last Government—and next year they will receive more information, even earlier.