Science and language subjects being marginalised, Wilshaw says

Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of Ofsted, has warned that the focus on the ‘three Rs’ in primary schools has pushed other compulsory subjects such as the sciences and languages ‘to the margins of the curriculum’.

In his monthly commentary, Wilshaw highlighted that most pupils who started secondary schools would take the full English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which included a foreign language and two sciences. However he argued that in some schools, sciences and languages had become ‘poor relations’ of the primary curriculum.

Wilshaw said: "This drive to raise the academic achievement of our young people is a laudable ambition but undoubtedly a very challenging one.

"In 2015, less than half of all pupils studied a foreign language at GCSE and, although science is a core subject that should be studied by all pupils to age 16, only 74 per cent of pupils took it to GCSE level to qualify for the EBacc.

"It seems clear that if the government's ambition is to be met, primary schools will need to lay the foundations in these subjects before their pupils move on to study them at secondary school."

In a recent review of science and language teaching, which drew on evidence from 340 routine inspections at primary schools, inspectors found that a lack of time was allocated to these subjects.

Many school leaders have argued that schools were struggling to fit in time for other subjects due to an ‘already tight curriculum’.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are also investing millions to raise the quality of teaching in languages and science through initiatives like the Science Learning Partnership, which benefited more than 2,600 primary schools last year alone.

"We are continuing to recruit high-quality candidates at primary level and have already exceeded our teacher training targets for this year, four months before the recruitment cycle ends.

"Alongside a raft of measures including increased bursaries and other financial incentives in EBacc subjects, including languages, we will ensure teaching remains an attractive profession."

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