Cambridge Primary Review


The Cambridge Primary Review published its final report on 23 October, 2009. This 608-page final report is the most comprehensive review of primary education in 40 years. It is described as ‘…more of a book than a report’. As either, it is probably the book and the report of the century with regards to Primary Schooling. The 1967 Plowden Report was the last to have a significan impact on primary schooling. This review is what is needed for the start of the 21st century.

A compulsory text for student teachers, every primary teacher should read it at least once; at least twice by Primary Principals and at least three times by governments’ education officials. Every Education Minister should carry it with them at all times and treat it as their bible.

Professor Robin Alexander a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge led the review, examining 4,000 published reports and 1,000 submissions from around the world. The report makes 78 recommendations for reforming the English system of primary education. Hope is held for Aussie learners that APPA members, subject associations and other Australian practitioners will deal with it in a thoroughly Australian-professional way in their advice to governments. The Review’s detailed compilation is certainly more thorough than acting hurriedly on unprofessional advice from non-teachers and a visitor [See “Visiting Experts’ above].

Save Our Schools, based in Canberra, had this to say on 23 October, 2009 : Just as Australia is introducing reporting of school test results and the inevitable league tables that will follow, a major review of the primary curriculum in England has issued damning conclusions on the impact of standardised tests and league tables.

The Cambridge Primary Review released at the end of 2009 says that the testing and reporting of school results in English and Maths has distorted children’s learning and eroded their entitlement to a broad education. It says that 10 and 11-year-olds spend around half their time in the classroom studying English and Maths and this has “squeezed out” other subjects from the curriculum. The Review recommends that the English and Maths tests be abandoned and that league tables that report scnools performance on these tests be axed as well.

In Australia national blanket testing was introduced by fiat in a ‘ruddy blush’ and with malice-before thought in 2008.

The Cambridge Review says that the current focus on passing exams and hitting targets at a young age was “even narrower than that of the Victorian elementary schools”. It claims that the existing system caused significant ‘collateral damage” as children were drilled to pass exams, marginalising other subjects such as history, geography, art and science which have been “squeezed out” of the curriculum. The study said :”The prospect of testing, expecially high-stakes testing undertaken in the public arena, forces teachers, pupils and parents to concentrate their attention on those areas of learning to be tested, too often to the exclusion of other activities of considerable educational importance.”  Australians already knew this, but in the face of arrogant ministerial pig-headedness, it is difficult to handle at the political level.

As children move through the primary phase, their statutory entitlement to a broad education is increasingly but needlessly compromised by a ‘standards’ agenda which combines high-stakes testing and the national strategies’ exclusive focus on literacy and numeracy.

The head of the review, Professor Robin Alexander, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that primary education should amount to much more than basic literacy and numeracy, supremely important though these are. He claims that tests in those areas can serve as a proxy for the rest of a child’s education are both wrong and misleading for parents.

The report proposes that the tests be replaced by a system of less formal teacher assessment throughout primary school which could be externally moderated. A random sample of children could then take place at age 11 to gauge national performance in all subjects. See :