Saturday 20 January 2018

Primary pupils and teachers 'overloaded' by curriculum

John Walshe Education Editor

CHILDREN are missing out in primary schools because teachers don't have time to get through the curriculum.

The 500,000 children in primary schools follow a curriculum divided into 11 subjects -- and a confidential report warns that pupils are overloaded by it.

The report prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) warns that "curriculum overload affects not just teachers but also children who are subject to it".

"Our schools seem to be struggling to keep the child central to the learning process," says the report, a copy of which has been seen by the Irish Independent.

At present, the curriculum is organised into six separate areas made up of 11 subjects.

These are: English, Irish, history, geography, science, maths, visual arts, drama, music, physical education, social, personal and health education.

To deliver it, teachers are expected to read the primary school curriculum, which consists of 23 books totalling 2,650 pages.


They are also expected to read half a dozen other reports and a wide range of documents covering everything from healthy eating, child protection, substance misuse, heritage in schools, farm safety, science and fitness. Teachers are quoted in the report as saying that they had insufficient time to fully implement all the curriculum subjects or address all of the objectives within these subjects.

The primary school week is just over 28 hours long -- 2.5 hours of which is devoted to religion. Three subjects, English, Irish and maths account for 52pc of the remaining time which leaves eight subjects competing for the other 48pc or 9.5 hours weekly. "Perhaps it is no wonder that teachers have identified lack of time as their greatest curriculum challenge," the report says.

It praises the child-centred approach of the curriculum, but suggests it has become "submerged under the weight of curriculum documents".

Sheila Nunan, incoming general secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, said: "While teachers are told to select 'a la carte' from a 'menu' curriculum, there is still an expectation that, at the end of the year, all areas will be covered. This is an unrealistic goal in most primary classrooms."

Irish Independent

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