Education secretary, Michael Gove has announced plans as part of the overhaul to the National Curriculum for schools in England.
Children as young as the age of five (year 1) will be expected to learn and recite poems by heart, in a bid to try and raise the standards of spelling, reading and grammar.
Back in 2010, when Gove’s free school and academy movement gained momentum, The Department for Education were keen to state that free schools and academies allow for an approach where “not one size fits all” Gove talked of a: “more personalised learning” and an “innovative curricula.”
It seems strange then for Gove to have overlooked the children that learn things differently from their peers. Where one child may excel in reciting poems, another may struggle. Instead of making them feel inadequate, perhaps the system should actively encourage diversity within learning.
Children with Special Educational Needs have different cognitive processes than their counterparts. This doesn’t mean that they’re not clever; rather, their style of learning is different to what is ‘expected’ of them. Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia – even the milder forms of dyslexia – can have discrepancies with their working memory. Their aptitude to process and hold chunks of information doesn’t function in the same way. To ask a child who may have problems in this area to stand in front of their classmates and recite something by heart is likely to cause them a great deal of stress and be damaging to their self esteem. The child that recites perfectly will be seen as the superior child when this is not necessarily true.
Yes, there is Special Needs Education (SEN) in place for those with a certain severity of learning disability; this however doesn’t help those children with, for example, a mild form of dyslexia who sit on the border of SEN provision.
Instead of expanding an already failing system, changes need to be made for the 21st century. Gove is draining schools of their creativity and intellectual diversity to make English as a subject, in his words: “far more rigorous”. Gove himself has said he has nothing against tradition, an “ideological push for retrograde Victorianism.” He doesn’t seem to realise that not all children respond to strict academia.
On a slightly separate note; I can’t help but question his motives. The attention grabbing: “ALL FIVE YEAR OLDS MUST RECITE POEMS” screams, look at me! Afterall, this is the man that has his name in gold lettering on the spine of the King James Bible which The Guardian called: “a vanity project”.