YESTERDAY'S news that English 10-year-olds have achieved a remarkable improvement in their results in maths is encouraging. The assessment is by the annual report Trends in International Maths and Science which measures and compares results in some 40 countries. English students are now in seventh place in the international league table, having languished far below that position for many years. Whether this result has any relevance to the British government's new plans for the primary school curriculum is not immediately clear. These plans are based on a report by Sir Jim Rose, a former schools inspector, who proposes that traditional specific subjects such as English, mathematics, history and geography should not be taught as individual subjects but instead be placed within wider “learning areas”. Thus, English would be linked with “communication and languages” and geography with “human, social and environmental understanding”. There are naturally opponents of any such blurring of the boundaries of subjects requiring a disciplined approach but the advantages of taking a broader view in certain areas, especially at primary school level when pupils are still exploring their learning horizons, can also be seen. Sir Jim Rose believes that this new approach will set primary schools free from the rigours of excessive testing and achieve the biggest reform in primary education in 20 years. A period of consultation with education authorities, teachers and parents will now begin.


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