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Broaden and balance the primary curriculum to foster children’s creativity and love of learning

To guarantee the future of primary education, a new government should prioritise children and teacher agency, widen the curriculum, and promote hands-on, experiential learning, recommends a new briefing paper from IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society.

The briefing paper provides recommendations for a new government to consider and recognise the importance of primary education in children’s development. It was written by Professors Dominic Wyse and Alice Bradbury, Dr Yana Manyukhina and Emily Ranken (Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy). 

The briefing recommends putting children and teachers at the heart of primary education. This involves listening to and respecting the voices of children, with the research evidence linking children’s agency in education to increased motivation and enjoyment of learning. 

Similarly, it suggests teachers be given more autonomy over their work; teacher recruitment and retention efforts should consider, for example, workload intensity and pressure related to assessments and Ofsted inspections. 

The authors also advise that reforms be made to England’s high stakes assessment system, underpinned by research evidence that indicates formative assessments lead to enhanced learning. They note that change is particularly necessary amidst teacher and parent dissatisfaction with these types of tests. 

The curriculum should also be widened, and England must move away from restrictive pedagogy, the paper recommends. This includes broadening the teaching of language, writing, and reading – beyond synthetic phonics and formal grammar teaching – to ensure that a greater variety of learning occurs. 

The briefing paper also highlights the necessity of supporting multiple languages alongside English. The research evidence indicates that fostering language diversity can lead to improved outcomes for children. 

The authors also note the importance of promoting hands-on learning and creativity, with learning set in meaningful, real-world contexts. The research evidence suggests that creative forms of teaching can create positive effects on children’s confidence, empathy and wellbeing, as well as improvement in vocabulary development and skills like memory and critical thinking.

Blog series

To elucidate the discussion, a four-part blog series is being released daily here:




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