What should primary schools teach?

The Education Secretary has said he wants primary schools to lace their curriculum teaching children to read and write with more adventure, outdoor activity and risk.

I invite you today to say what you think about this suggestion.

Are the things he has in mind like climbing trees and watching a sunrise things for schools, or are they opportunities for families and leisure time? Do we have to ask the schools to do these things, when children spend far more time out of school than in it?

The state ensures everyone has an education, and provides a network of local schools throughout the country to give all have the chance to learn. Almost all of us agree that a good grounding in the basics at primary is central to being able to get more out of secondary education, and necessary to be able to navigate the complexities of adult life.

I saw sunrises, skimmed stones and climbed trees as a boy, but never at school.


  1. Ron Olden
    November 24, 2018

    The purpose of schools is to teach children things that parents don’t have the knowledge or skills to teach the children themselves, or at the very least don’t have the time themselves to devote to the necessary intensive tuition.

    The single biggest cause of inequality of opportunity in this country now, is the fact that parents capable or interested in doing so, can pay for private education, get their child into the best State School, and if their child is at a State School, pay for some extra coaching, or teach the child themselves.

    Given that children’s TV nowadays is a joke, the only time many children now have to learn anything, is at school.

    Is it too much to ask that children actually be taught to read, write and some basic knowledge there?

    They can learn to do all these other things outside school with families of friends, and in their own leisure time far better than any teacher can offer them.

    Schools have for decades now been run for the self indulgent benefit of the people they employ. They should be run SOLELY for the benefit of the customers. i.e the children and parents.

    1. Cheshire Girl
      November 24, 2018

      I think one of the saddest things was on the television news a day or two ago. There was a group of small children at a Primary School, talking about mental health. One little lad (about 5/6 years old ) was talking about anxiety and depression. The Teacher told the TV presenter how pleased she was that the children were learning about Mental Health issues.

      Im not trying to be insensitive, but I cant help feeling that , this constant pressure to get young children talking about their Mental Health, may in fact be causing some of them to have Mental Health problems themselves.

      What happened to allowing young children to enjoy their early years, free from the worries that may happen later on.

      1. NickC
        November 24, 2018

        Loading children with adult issues before they can possibly understand is child abuse. And the last thing children need is for adults to organise their every waking minute. Schools should not waste teaching time on child play. Let children play themselves. But in modern society there are problems I never faced as a child (until the Moors murderers).

        Like many other parents we feared predatory paedophiles. It is no good claiming that rarely happens. Risk = chance x consequence; only establishment stooges like Andy won’t admit that. Most parents kept their children in. We didn’t, but we made sure that they always went out with other children for combined safety.

        We have a sick society where traditional values, and the traditional family, are denigrated and sneered at. Yet they are the bulwarks for the best outcomes for our children.

      2. Andy
        November 24, 2018

        “What happened to allowing young children to enjoy their early years, free from the worries that may happen later on.”

        Michael Gove happened. And countless other secretaries of education who, between them, decided to test the hell out of our kids.

        I swear, most of the old folk who complain about schools today should be thankful that they are not at school today. It is much harder than it ever was for you.

        1. Richard1
          November 24, 2018

          The testing has probably been the only means to counter the pernicious influence of left-wing unions and the education blob at whose hands standards have collapsed. Choice and competition would solve the problem better than dictats from govt. Gives reforms have led to big improvements though.

        2. Narrow Shoulders
          November 25, 2018

          @andy – the testing of Primary school children does not require revision, just in school preparation, so would not impact on “play” time outside school

    2. John Hatfield
      November 24, 2018

      I can also see some visits, excursions to interesting places, historical sites or zoos for example as being useful. But is that what the Education Secretary has in mind?
      Health and safety would put a stop to tree climbing!

  2. Mark B
    November 24, 2018

    Good morning.

    Learning, especially for the very young, should be fun. If something that is both educational and fun it is well remembered and beneficial to all.

    I am not sure about sunrises but, days out learning what happens on a farm or such can be rewarding.
    The children can bee encouraged to write and then read out their experiences.

    But as children get older education has to be more formal. And nothing should get in the way of the 3 R’ s

    1. James
      November 24, 2018

      The Education Secretary should be sacked, and the Education Department should be shut down. Neither are needed. The children would be better educated and we would have fewer lousy schools if it was left to the parents to decide what their children are taught. They know infinitely better than any politician what is best for their children.

  3. Lifelogic
    November 24, 2018

    Come to think of it I am always amazed by how few people and indeed politicians understand of science, logic, reason, manufacturing, real economics, competition, business, risk reward, maths or engineering.

    No one, who has any real understanding of the above, could ever vote for a Corbyn or McDonnall “politics of envy” type could they? So as to make the UK another Venezuela. Or indeed think in the way the lefty, tax and regulate to death dope T May seems to “thing”.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 24, 2018

      In the Telegraph today – Philip Hammond has suggested that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is a way of bridging the “gap” between Leave and Remain voters because any deal which looked like one half of the country “winning” would be “disastrous”.

      Brexit did win, but Theresa (Brexit means sweet F.A.) May, the BBC, the establishment and even the Daily Mail are now attempting to cheat & defraud them.

      The deal May & Hammond are proposing is far worse than remain. It is clearly not Brexit at all it is not what May claims at all. It will revive UKIP, destroy the Conservative party and allow Corbyn/Mc Donnall/SNP to destroy the economy (a far greater risk than Brexit). Why on earth can May, Hammond and it seems most Tory MPs not see this?

      Will someone please rid us of the tax & regulate to death, EUphile, pension & landlord mugger, IHT ratter & socialist dope residing in No 11 and the totally misguided, robotic liar who lives next door.

  4. matthu
    November 24, 2018

    At the moment many parents dare not deliberately expose their children to unnecessary risk without social services becoming involved.

    But if schools expose children to more risk, they will almost inevitably be obliged to hire additional staff (with special tree-climbing and risk assessment qualifications and requiring additional criminal record checks) and take out additional insurance policies to protect them from liability?

    All of these ideas seem to be designed to involve the state more closely in bringing up our children and justify greater revenue transfers to the public sector.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 24, 2018

      Indeed given the “working at heights directive” they will surely need scaffolding, towers and cherry pickers to do any tree climbing. Also the tree will doubtless have to have a structural survey and some stress & rigidity testing.

      All the teachers will need to be sent on health and safety courses with respect to trees and stone throwing!

    2. NickC
      November 24, 2018

      Matthu, Well said. And the question of risk is something few politicians and no ideologues understand.

  5. Lifelogic
    November 24, 2018

    Making English spellings rather more rational would save a huge amount of teacher and pupil time in primary schools and indeed later on in life.

    As Richard Feynman put it:- If the professors of English complain to me that the students who come to the universities, after all those years of study, still cannot spell “friend,” I say to them that something’s the matter with the way you spell friend.

    1. eeyore
      November 24, 2018

      LL – Y not rite yore poasts in a rifformd speling so wee can orl si wot U meen?

      1. forthurst
        November 24, 2018

        He used to before he started using spell-checker.

      2. Lifelogic
        November 24, 2018

        Spelling is merely notation, a tool for communication and such tools should be allowed to improve over time and not be fixed in aspic. Just as accents evolve for the spoken language. Should we perhaps, in the same way, mark people down in exams for having the “wrong” accent?

        1. Caterpillar
          November 24, 2018

          The spelling gives etymological and morphological clues to meaning of unknown words which, with context, speeds learning.

      3. John Hatfield
        November 24, 2018

        Precisely eeyore. LL talks nonsense.

    2. Peter Wood
      November 24, 2018

      LEARN GERMAN …..

  6. Colin Hide
    November 24, 2018

    These things should, of course, be done in family time.

    However, nowadays, they aren’t and so, if we believe they are important, then it’s natural that they are done in school time.

    There was a feature on East Midlands today this week, about how a primary school gets the children to play board games at the start of the day to get them settled down, get them talking, happy and listening to each other. Only then can they start teaching sometime later.

    Back in the day, you could count on the children arriving in school ready to learn from minute one.

    Not now, what with Breakfast TV, social media, blended families, mobile ‘phone etc etc.

    It’s not right, of course, but necessary due to the times we live in.

  7. Caterpillar
    November 24, 2018

    English, maths, science should remain core at key stages 1 and 2. Some foundational subjects could be reduced of this aids the big three. Reading within English should be expanded, maths needs to achieve more. Prior to citizenship in KS3 pupils in KS1 and 2 must be trained to behave, respect others and realise the consequences of their actions, this is key before risk taking and key to future behaviour in later school life. The badly behaved are depriving others of a school education, every lever must be used.

  8. Mick
    November 24, 2018

    When you have a snowflake society running education ramming Eu ideology down there throats then you get another generation of snowflakes, when I was growing up in the 50s we didn’t have a tv until the mid 60s so we had to make our own entertainment and pastime activity’s like climbing trees, tin can ally in the street, hide and seek, football, cricket, tennis, putt golf, making trolly carts, bow and arrows, fishing, push bike racing and classroom homework, they were the days not a care in the world not like the nanby pandy young we have now who are scared of there own shadows

    1. Alan Jutson
      November 24, 2018


      My childhood similar to yours in many ways.

      At our Secondary modern school we were taught skills that would be useful for life as part of our lessons and curriculum.

      Woodwork, metal work, maths (which involved proper problem solving), mental arithmetic, financial calculation, geometry, technical drawing, the use of timetables, the reading of maps, physics with a purpose, history was related to our Country and how it related to the rest of the World.
      PE was also an important part of the curriculum with inter school teams for football, cricket, and athletics, we also had swimming lessons, craft practice ,and Art as well as the other core subjects.
      In short it was an education which prepared you for life.
      In the 1960’s not a single student left our secondary modern school without getting themselves a job.

      1. Martyn G
        November 24, 2018

        Mick, you have described my education to a T, other than that mine was in the 50’s. Being of a more practical and technical bent, I opted to go to a Tech High school after the 11+ and there educated so well that it fitted me thereafter for a long and successful working career, upon which these I look back upon with some satisfaction.
        I do not recall in my Primary school days any number of children leaving Primary who were functionally illiterate, and certainly not in the numbers (20%+?) reported these days….

        1. Cheshire Girl
          November 24, 2018

          Martyn, Alan, Mick.

          I am of the same generation. I went to a Secondary Modern school, and my education was very much the same as yours.

          Children in my class were required to demonstrate their proficiency in reading, spelling and other subjects. We were also brought up to remember, not just our rights, but our responsibilities to society, and to be proud of our history.

          Secondary Moderns are derided and sneered at these days, but I dont remember anyone leaving school unable to read either.

    2. Stred
      November 24, 2018

      When we were at junior school we learned the basics and football one day a week. At break we played marbles and catch. At home we threw small stones at each other and went to each other’s houses. We made rockets out of sodium chlorate snd sugar and one friend liked to blow up trees. Now this is unavailable. Teachersare telling kids that they can be gender flexible or something and little boys sre spending time trying on girls clothes while tomboys, who were honorary boys until they grew into lovely young women, are turning into real boys, according to the current mantra.

      1. Timaction
        November 24, 2018

        Indeed. Actively encouraged by the current politically correct left wing Tory’s as they are no longer Conservative!

  9. Kenneth
    November 24, 2018

    I agree that these extra activities are for the family.

    The state is trying to act as a parent and the more it does it, the less responsibility we will take for ourselves and our families.

    A Conservative government should have defended us against this kind of thing but many people who are members of the Conservatives are not Conservatives at all!

  10. Peter
    November 24, 2018

    It’s no cause for alarm. Just slight change to formal PE lessons and out of school trips.

    I am more worried about teachers indoctrinating kids with the latest politically correct nostrums. Sex education for youngsters is an absolute minefield these days.

    1. Narrow Shoulders
      November 24, 2018


      I tend to agree. If many of today’s parents do not think these activities are worthwhile and children are not having this wonder passed down to them it needs to be revived in some way.

      There are few after school clubs where imagination is being fostered (Lifelogic the engineers of tomorrow need wonder and imagination) so the process has to be rebooted somehow for those without pushy middle class parents who often participate by rote. (And unfortunately we need pushy middle class parents too).

      Primary school pupils learn best through immersion, the creative curriculum has proven to be very successful. If these activities can be used as an extension of the creative curriculum weaving in science, reading, maths and writing about the experiences then the initiative will prove productive.

      So much is (justifiably) written on these sheets about what is missing from many of today’s school leavers and new employees that fostering independence, risk and wonder must be a good thing. Within the curriculum to master the basics of course.

  11. Monza 71
    November 24, 2018

    Yes, our parents allowed us the freedom to play and explore. I was fortunate enough to spend the entire school holidays on Hayling Island and was allowed to take my bike on the coach there and back.

    I spent most days riding round the island, exploring, swimming and catching crabs. I was out all day with a packed lunch.

    Life is different now. My mum did not work so she took us to Hayling and Dad came down at the weekends. We had her attention and did lots activities. These days both parents ( if, indeed, there are two ) both work.

    Yesterday I saw very young kids being “taught” woodwork. They had hammers and hacksaws. They were being supervised by a young female teacher who, I assume, had never held a hammer or saw in her life. As a result the kids had no idea how to use the tools. They needed someone retired like me to come in and teach them properly.

    At least the school should be congratulated for making the effort.

    1. Narrow Shoulders
      November 24, 2018

      Life is different now. My mum did not work so she took us to Hayling and Dad came down at the weekends. We had her attention and did lots activities. These days both parents ( if, indeed, there are two ) both work.

      And if I may suggest, there lies the problem. The state wants our taxes and consumption so has encouraged both parents to work (to the extent that it has distorted the childcare market with its subsidies for the less well off).

      By distracting the parents from the process of their children growing up under the flag of equality we have slowly removed upbringing from the expectation of a parent.

      Incidentally, once the number of parents in employment reached saturation point (including relevant subsidies which did not pay for themselves) government sought to increase taxes and consumption through immigration which feasibly could never reach saturation (but which also requires subsidies which do not pay for themselves).

  12. Peter D Gardner
    November 24, 2018

    I responded to the Government’s consultation on the guidance to be given to schools on relationships and sex education. It is a disgrace that parents do not have a total right of withdrawal of their children under the age 18. The guidance encourages social engineering and its socialist inspiration shows in this and in its encouragement of children to snitch on their parents, snitch on fellow children and anyone who has opinions contrary to what is taught as ‘correct’ in schools. Two essential things that should be taught are entirely absent: a) how to question and debate constructively and honestly, and b) how to stand up for yourself and be self-reliant.
    The state wants to own our children, yet it cannot be trusted to educate them. It is no wonder there has been according to a recent report a 40% increase in home education from 2014/5 to 2016/7.
    This being the case, the state should be strictly confined to the basics, arithmetic, English and so on plus character building activities but this only if it is in the hands of people with the right backgrounds and knowledge in which leadership, self-discipline, self-reliance, respect for others and intellectual rigour are valued and practised – which excludes the majority of state school teachers.

  13. Richard1
    November 24, 2018

    No this sounds like a distraction. Bedsides, any attempt by the state to introduce adventure activities into schools will be so laced with health and safety regs as to make it either meaningless or prohibitively expensive. The education secretary should focus on what schools can do – provide a first class education. It is clear that the best way to do this is real choice for parents and competition, so good schools expand and bad ones close. An interesting experiment is going on in Durham where an education prof is starting a chain of low cost private schools. The left of course hate this – low cost private schools are what’s transforming the lives and prospects of millions of children in developing countries. This is the sort of initiate the education secretary should be encouraging.

    1. DUNCAN
      November 24, 2018

      ‘An interesting experiment is going on in Durham where an education prof is starting a chain of low cost private schools. The left of course hate this – low cost private schools are what’s transforming the lives and prospects of millions of children in developing countries. This is the sort of initiate the education secretary should be encouraging.’

      Absolutely. Hear, hear but don’t expect the spineless, socialist Tories to fully fund this great project. They’re too terrified of confronting the education unions.

      Why do I vote Tory when all I see is a pure bred liberal left animal as our leader and her absolute embrace of all things political.

      I am, by the day, growing to despise the party I have voted for all my life

      1. Richard1
        November 25, 2018

        Ideally it should be profit making – in fact the one I referred to is not for profit. Parents should be given vouchers and allowed to use them wherever.

  14. Billy Marlene
    November 24, 2018

    Given the current case of the 30 year old asylum seeker successfully enrolling himself at an Ipswich secondary school perhaps we can utilise this sector of our society to teach our kids useful life skills.

    ‘Hide and Seek’, ‘Escape and Evasion’ and Beating the System’ spring to mind.

  15. Dave Andrews
    November 24, 2018

    Looking back at my life from say 5 to 11 years old, I wonder why it took so long to learn so little. However, one of my enduring memories is day trips around the city where I grew up, learning about local history and the civic buildings.
    The city where I grew up looks so different now, with a significant immigrant population. It would be good if the children learnt something of the heritage they have now inherited as British citizens, and connect with the society they have been born into.

  16. Sakara Gold
    November 24, 2018

    Keeping this brief, people don’t let their kids out to play today because of the paedophile threat, so kids mix and make friends at school. Schools should teach the three R’s, British history, science, a foreign language (not latin, something useful like french, spanish or polish). Arguably they should also teach safety online, how to gather information from the web and basic social skills.

    PE was always part of my school curriculum. These days health and safety regulations (and the school’s insurance company) would crucify any teacher that had a kid fall out of a tree whilst on a school outing

    1. Andy
      November 24, 2018

      There is no paedophile threat. You are almost as likely to be hit by a meteorite than you are to have a random sex offender grab your child from the street. It does not happen any more.

      In terms of crime, our country and its children are safer than ever. And thanks to the increasing intelligence we share with the EU it is getting safer still. Until Brexit day.

      The biggest risks to our children – by far – are the physical threat posed by traffic, the mental threat posed by social media, the environmental threat posed by climate change deniers like Donald Trump and the economic threat posed by Brexit.

      1. Alan Jutson
        November 24, 2018

        Sorry Andy, there have always been kiddie fiddlers around, just ask your own Parents and Grandparents, but we had a different way of dealing with them years ago.

        I agree misuse of Social media is a real threat today, as indeed are the availability of a whole range of drugs.

        Oh almost forgot, never knew of anyone who wanted to change gender at any school when I attended.
        Indeed sensible discipline certainly at my School was certainly rather better enforced by the head than seems is now the case, but more importantly they then had the support of all parents.

      2. backofanenvelope
        November 24, 2018

        First prize! You got Trump and Brexit into a piece on education.

      3. Richard1
        November 24, 2018

        That depends who you are and where you live. In Rotherham and other northern cities there has been a terrible paedophile threat, ignored disgracefully by the police and other authorities due to PC considerations.

      4. Steve
        November 24, 2018


        “There is no paedophile threat. ….. It does not happen any more”

        Hard to find anything to say to that.

        As for the rest of your post claiming kids are currently safe because the EU protects them, and they will be endangered by brexit…….well just cheap, very cheap.

        I have my doubts as to whether you are a parent as you claim to be. In my opinion the kind of post you now resort to possibly means we have a troll on the site.

        Next you’ll be telling us teenagers are getting stabbed because of brexit.

      5. Roy Grainger
        November 24, 2018

        Your assertion that there is no paedophilic threat is odd – you obviously don’t live in Rotherham, Bradford etc. Your beloved EU did nothing to protect those thousands of victims.

        Incidentally, why do you miss out the economic threat of a Labour government ?

      6. Lifelogic
        November 24, 2018

        No. The paedohile threat is indeed rather low, but it is at least a million times more likely that the meteorite – if you look at the stats. Sir David Spiegelhalter has some analysis of the meteorite odds.

      7. Stred
        November 24, 2018

        This must be the best Fearballs yet. Brexit endangers little children. Oh how awful these old righties are.

      8. NickC
        November 24, 2018

        Andy, No, the biggest threats to children are Remain propagandists like you who fill their ears with nonsense about how we cannot have self-determination and be an independent country. And how PotUS Obama has only 4 years to save the world or we will all fry, as James Hansen said in 2009.

      9. Anonymous
        November 24, 2018

        PS, ‘children safer than ever’

        Yes. Because they’re kept indoors.

        Where are yours ? Certainly not in state school areas.

      10. Lifelogic
        November 25, 2018

        Italian is perhaps rather simpler for me.

        Andy, no one denies “climate change”. The climate has always changed and always will do. What sensible scientist dispute is catastrophic, runaway global warming caused by human produced C02. The science and real world evidence is clearly on our side on this issue.

        The predictions of the alarmists, the arms of governments and the green priests have all been proved to be gross exaggerations. Still no statistically significant warming since 1998. No shortage of snow in the Alps for me this year either.

    2. Steve
      November 24, 2018

      I agree entirely with Sakara.

      Nice idea but not workable without removing the predators and all the political correctness.

      Though admittedly fundamental change is needed to get the young away from PC indoctrination.

      Children are robbed of so much nowadays, and it’s all because of a covert agenda to dumb down the country.

      We had a .22 rifle range, a machine shop including forge, oxyacetylene, lathes and mills, fly-press. We even had an after school junior boxing club.

      National service, Wrestling on TV 4pm every Saturday, craft skills and ingenuity that got you through the tough times, neighbourly spirit, not turning a blind eye to someone down on their luck. All gone.

  17. Bryan Harris
    November 24, 2018

    The Education Secretary has the right ideas – kids are now so coddled that they would never be allowed to climb tress with a risk assessment – It is time to let kids have some of the freedoms we had when growing up…. Doing that within a school environment, given that our society is ravaged with violence and other problems, is a step in the right direction

  18. Frank
    November 24, 2018

    The best way to get children to climb trees is for parents and teachers to tell them not to climb trees.

  19. Roy Grainger
    November 24, 2018

    Current health and safety regulations wouldn’t allow any school to organise tree climbing without expensive expert assistance and a mass of safety equipment. I’m not saying that’s wrong but it’s a fact. Introducing “risk” into schools is absolutely impossible.

  20. Andy
    November 24, 2018

    My children are at independent primary schools at the moment – and I wholeheartedly agree with the Education Secretary.

    My son’s school does something called Forest School – where the children spend a couple of hours each week learning in the woods, pretty much whatever the weather.

    One week they will turn twigs, leaves etc into art. The next week they will re-enact a battle they have been learning about in history. They learn about nature. They count trees to hell with maths. And they do all this while being allowed to run around, climb trees and have fun. It is – by far – the best lesson they have of the week. The kids all think so. The parents all think so. The teachers all think so.

    And because they are having fun and running around the learning sticks. They remember it.

    I urge you, Mr Redwood, find a nearby school which runs a forest school and invite yourself along. All primary school children should do it.

    And to the ‘three R’ naysayers I say this. Education has, thankfully, moved on from your time. Our children are better educated than you ever were – their knowledge and skills much broader. And if you think otherwise I urge you to buy an 11+ test paper and give it a go. Most of you would fail and plenty of 10 year olds don’t.

    1. Steve
      November 25, 2018


      “Our children are better educated than you [JR?] ever were – their knowledge and skills much broader”

      My God.

    2. Edward2
      November 25, 2018

      Your tale isn’t new Andy.
      At my village primary school that is the style of teaching we enjoyed decades ago and not very different to the experiences of my own children in our local school.

  21. Turboterrier.
    November 24, 2018

    I really do despair.

    What are these ministers thinking about let alone what planet they are from.
    We have developed a low risk society in about everything.
    Children climbing trees will require trained supervision, fall harness, safety lines. hard hats, suitable footwear and clothing. The family unit for decades have abdicated their responsibility for bringing their children up and left it to the education service.

    Give them a i- pad, phone or play station but don’t what ever you do take them out into the country or encourage them to join the cadet forces that provide all these recreational outlets as well as teaching them discipline especially self discipline.

  22. Brigham
    November 24, 2018

    I started school in 1938. Every day we had to recite the tables 2 to 12. I still know them. We had slates and slate pencils, the alphabet had to be written, upper and lower case, with lines etched on the slates. It is only now that my handwriting is deteriorating, due to a combination of computer keyboards and old age. We were taught the basics thoroughly, and I can’t believe the spelling and grammar of the current school pupils. Gender never happened until I was about 12.

  23. matthu
    November 24, 2018

    Dear Parent
    The school has received representations that we should include more outdoor activity and risk into our curriculum.

    However, a major problem is that in any class roughly half the pupils don’t actually want to be climbing trees (and that includes a small number who moan that climbing trees would be positively damaging to the environment).

    We therefore propose to chop all of the trees in the playground down without delay in order to avoid giving any appearance that the other half of the class is “winning” and we need parents to unite behind this plan without further debate.

    We should stress that without parental support it is likely that the government would step in and chop these trees down anyway.

    Only by so doing can we heal our education system!

    Head Teacher: P Hammond.

  24. Alan Joyce
    November 24, 2018

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    It is difficult to know where to start! I suppose the Education Secretary is attempting to put a little more adventure into the lives of pupils because he sees that many of them do not get this from their parents in their out of school time. Presumably, in the same way that some children begin school unable to talk properly or to feed themselves correctly. Which is why we have breakfast clubs and after-school activities and all the other things that have become a substitute for proper parenting.

    Children are also discouraged from exploring their outdoor environment because of the risk of them encountering strangers, etc. Then there is the attraction of mobile phones with gaming and social media taking up inordinate amounts of time.

    Thus far, I feel I am being far too constructive! As a parting shot may I say that perhaps some adults in the education arena are in need of getting outside a bit more. A system that permits a 30 year old asylum-seeker to begin school lessons in a class of 15 year olds is clearly broken beyond repair.

  25. Turboterrier.
    November 24, 2018

    Teach children life skills starting from their primary years.

    Playing shops but with a difference allowing groups to be the manufacturing (cooking skills?) Quality control, packing, goods outward, transport delivery, goods inward, storeroom, shelf stocking to selling the products and handling money and writing receipts.

    OMG is that something akin to a JIT system which all the politicians and the BBC are constantly banging on about?

    Year on year you increase the complexity of the operation. Quality Control, Self Directed Working Teams, Statistical Process Control and at 15 years of age you have all pupils leaving school with a much better understanding how industry really works.

    Through my local MSP I suggested that this could be considered in the Scottish system and needless to say the men in the grey suits wrote back and said it was interesting but totally outwith of the current forward planning being set in place by the SNP Government.

  26. Wessexboy
    November 24, 2018

    Time for a voucher system for all; let schools charge, get away from the ‘one payer’ system and see how many sensible ideas replace the current idiocies. We’d see a gradual move away from the current left wing bias presently within the system as schools realised the need to be customer focused.

  27. DUNCAN
    November 24, 2018

    Typo – ‘Is there no’

  28. Raymond Greenwood
    November 24, 2018

    Reading, writing, arithetic and the UK’s Judeo Christian religious heritage.

  29. VotedOut
    November 24, 2018

    We do have a lot of young people who are not creative and inventive outside ‘software’. If we want to have an innovative culture we need to provide opportunities for the young to make things that break because then they ask why and how can they make it better…

    Creativity is born of experience and in particular the experience of failure.

  30. David L
    November 24, 2018

    If only parents would do things with their children that increase awareness of the real world. I sat in a bus in Oxford recently alongside a mother and father with a fractious and bored young child. The parents spent the 20 minute journey clicking on their damn phones and didn’t even glance at their child until they had to get off. I guess they’ll expect the school to make up for their rubbish parenting.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 25, 2018

      In my youth children had to make do with toy plastic steering wheel stuck with a sucker to back of the seat in front.

  31. bigneil
    November 24, 2018

    ” The state ensures everyone has an education ” – There lies a problem. With the govt waving in hundreds of thousands of non-contributors to the tax system, they send their offspring straight to our schools for a free education, sitting alongside tax=payer funded assistants to help them as they don’t speak our language. Keep diverting the funds and the schooltime to anyone who turns up for a free life. It is clear that in modern day Britain the foreign arrival is deemed more worthy than the people who have to pay for it all.

  32. Rien Huizer
    November 24, 2018

    Mr Redwood,

    Modern parents work full time and have no time for educating their children or supervising their outdoor activities. School is basically an extension of day care. Whatever the child learns is irrelevant and probably uncool too. When at home, parents absent, children can be out of harm’s way with their games and smartphones. Outdoor play should be part of the modern school’s curriculum.

    Or would you like to emprison all those women again and let them be mothers?

    Reply No. There are weekends, summer evenings and for a sunrise breakfast time

    1. Rien Huizer
      November 26, 2018

      Mr Redwood, my comments were meant to be ironic, but with some element of truth. The times you mention are not always avaiable and why would modern parents priotitize children over friends, socialising and sports (watching). Anyway, in reality I think this initiative is politically stupid. Parents of primary school children are a small minority and the part of the electorate unhappy with something like this much much greater (think of the grandparents for instance). And many parents actually care for their children and may make the effort.

  33. a-tracy
    November 24, 2018

    My first thought was who is the Education Secretary right now?
    Then I thought is he or she willing to pay for the resulting higher insurance for the school for the claims for every fracture, break and bruise the child might get! No.
    Primary schools should concentrate on making learning reading, writing and arithmetic fun, efficient and lasting. Advanced learners can then learn to read and write in French or German too, advanced maths and science talented children can work on more complex ideas.
    Perhaps the primary school should allow the children to have a class referendum each year to decide whether this should be in the curriculum, with it agreed in advance any injuries are at the children and their parents own risk, then if the vote goes FOR the school Head just overturn the decision because she and the insurers know best. At least this Head has the relevant qualifications and knowledge and experience to know what chaos would ensure, our MPs pretend to have our best interests at heart when the public I know all agree that this is the worst of all possible deals.

    We are trapped in, unable to make our own decisions, May is coming off nasty and racist by trying to deflect but then again she did put those awful vans around London and screwed up deportations in the Home Office she hasn’t got a good track record on misreading the public.

  34. John S
    November 24, 2018

    I remember Linford Christie being a castaway on Desert Island Discs some years ago. He arrived in this country and went to the local primary school. He said that the school was 2 years behind the school he attended in Jamaica. Was this because the Jamaican government spent more on education than did this country? I don’t think so. We need to concentrate on the basics. Anything else is icing on the cake.

  35. DUNCAN
    November 24, 2018

    It is my belief that politicians willingly sacrifice the education and welfare of children on the altar of political convenience. Therefore, education policy is designed and delivered according to what is politically convenient rather than what is best for the child. This is the Tory stance and it is one based on political cowardice

    For the poisonous left and Labour, education is seen as a tool of social and political indoctrination. The left will always sacrifice children on the altar of politicisation

    I will vote for any party that encourages the depoliticisation of human relationships in all its forms

  36. L Jones
    November 24, 2018

    It’s an interesting discussion, but how relevant will it be once the EU indoctrinators are allowed full rein?
    It’s a relief to turn our minds to the good old days and talk about how our young should be educated – but I do wonder, were we to be submersed in the EU and were it to affect every corner of our lives (as T May would wish) how long would it be before parents had little say and we were subject to alien rules?
    Our children are already suffering from these gender and mental health obsessions – it seems like another way of dividing and ruling and dumbing us all down so we’re easier to control.

  37. Iain Moore
    November 24, 2018

    Not sure, but it seems the state and schools are being expected to taking on the role of parents, and teaching children what the parents should be doing.

  38. Ed Mahony
    November 24, 2018

    I think our approach is overly Victorian (good and bad).

    Charles Dickens could be scathing about education in his time: ‘NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.’

    Scandinavians and Germans have more relaxed approach for this age group – not forgetting the importance, too, of the development of emotional and creative intelligence – key for life in general, including the workplace, later on.

  39. Pat
    November 24, 2018

    Firstly use a wider, much wider, variety of reading materials so that the child is presented with material that is interesting to him/her, as well as at the right reading level. Children will learn to read far better if the subject matter is interesting. For some that will mean books on non-approved subjects such as war, every boy used to read such stuff and it didn’t turn them into bloodthirsty monsters- that is far more likely to happen to kids who fail to learn to read.
    Secondly don’t teach things beyond their understanding. Mental health and global warming come to mind, these are too advanced for primary children. Asking them to accept instruction beyond their comprehension is not education but indoctrination.
    Thirdly provide opportunities for boys to run around and let off steam – they’ll pay far more attention in class as a result.
    Finally outdoor activity, adventure and risk would not only allow steam to be let off, but could serve to give children experience outside their usual environment- parents can be left to provide experience within it.

  40. Jim Whitehouse
    November 24, 2018

    Outside activity is probably a good idea and I imagine has some benefits.
    Risk is one of those things that sounds good at first. Risk is, well, risky. By definition, it brings a non-zero probability of injury or death and as soon as one child is hurt in a new school activity, there will be calls for enquiries, reports, trials, and witch hunts. The press headlines will be “This can never be allowed to happen again”.

  41. Steve
    November 24, 2018


    If you’ve got some problem with the truth say just say so.

    & there’s me thinking at least one conservative was different. Needless to say the tories will never get another vote from me.

    Reply Over what

    1. Steve
      November 25, 2018

      I was having a bad day, apologies.

  42. The Quiet Man
    November 24, 2018

    The problem we have in this country is for the last 30 years school children have been brainwashed by socialists teachers and nothing was ever done about it. Its a bit late in the day now to change things now.

    1. Lifelogic
      November 25, 2018

      Plus tax to death socialist governments, this ever since the fall of Thatcher (and even she was very far from perfect).

      Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now the appalling T May, All big government, high tax, pro EU disasters for the UK.

  43. oldtimer
    November 24, 2018

    OT: re the defence implications of the draft withdrawal agreement and political declaration that Mrs May is about to sign. It would help if you offered your analysis and opinion on what they mean and imply for the future for UK defence, if passed by parliament.

  44. RayK
    November 24, 2018

    Schools should teach children to not listen to politicians of any make or hue, not to read the Sun newspaper, not to read the Daily Express, nor the Daily Mail and even the Daily Telegraph. The Times and Guardian, also the Economist are good papers to read if you want a balanced realistic analysis of what is going on in the world..in other words teach them to keep away from the fake news outlets. Other than that learn to play a musical instrument, join a choir, play scrabble and chess

    1. Stred
      November 24, 2018

      This sounds more like the staffroom than a primary classroom. No wonder they come out learning less than kids in a tin shed in Africa.

  45. William Long
    November 24, 2018

    The job of a primary school must be to give the very best grounding it can in the ‘three R’s’. Climbing trees, catching fish or watching the sunrise or sunset are pursuits to be encouraged, but should be done out of school hours. Why should I as a taxpayer pay for them? It is clearly in the national interest that children are literate and numerate from as early a stage as possssible and I am happy to contribute to that.
    The Education Secretary’s view is what we would expect from a Labour or Lib-Dem minister; the reason people vote Conservative has traditionally been in the hope that their money will be wisely spent: this is further confirmation that that is now a forlourn hope.
    To me it is an interesting comment on the mediocrity of the present Government that on reflecting on your post, I find that I have no idea who the present Education Secretary is!

  46. Paul
    November 24, 2018

    I can’t even be bothered to find out who the latest Education Sec is but whoever it is sounds like the typical modern day Conservative, i.e an interfering nanny state lefty.

  47. English Pensioner
    November 24, 2018

    My 9 year old grandson was bored with reading and with the books in the school library. They were all so achingly politically correct. No real adventure stories or anything which might encourage any kind of risk. He finds a children’s encyclopaedia more interesting that modern children’s fiction. I’ve got my eyes open for second hand copies of the books that I used to read such as “Swallows and Amazons” or “Biggles” which are definitely not PC.

    The impression I get is that many schools actively discourage the children from taking any risks whether in or our of school and and ‘dangerous’ games in the playground are forbidden, so about all the children can do is stands around and talk. One suspects that their books are vetted accordingly. I don’t expect them to teach things like tree climbing, but equally I don’t want to see them discouraging children from looking for old-fashioned adventures.

    Looking back, I’m surprised that more of us didn’t come to harm. In wartime, I lived in the country and during the summer a group of us would be given some sandwiches by our mothers and disappear for the day with just the warning “Be careful and get back in time for tea”. The worse that usually happened was that we fell in the local stream, but there was safety in numbers.

    Unfortunately, places like that are becoming fewer, but I never see children playing in our small local woods. A great pity. In my day we would have built a ‘den’ out of fallen branches.

  48. Mike Wilson
    November 24, 2018

    I would preface my comment by saying that schools are awful places. You take young children, take them away from their parents and put them into an environment where they have to shut up, concentrate, behave and, for most of them, be bullied, called names, ostracised and, often, be made to feel useless and unpopular. School scars many people.

    That said, at my primary school in the 1950s we got a very good grounding in the ‘3Rs’ and we studied History, Nature Study, Art and Handicraft, Music and did PE. A catholic primary school run by unqualified Irish nuns – some of whom were barely out of school themselves – the school regularly sent 50% of its pupils on to grammar school. Apart from the religious indoctrination, the discipline and the general fear – it wasn’t too bad.

    As it is I am far better educated, and more knowledgeable (apart from about using mobile bloody phones) than my adult children educated in the 1990s.

  49. Mike Wilson
    November 24, 2018

    Mr. Redwood – an off (this) topic question.

    You have written here, a number of times, that if whatever deal is negotiated is voted down by Parliament, we would automatically proceed to a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

    Is this true? Now we read that if the ‘deal’ is voted down, parliament will never vote for ‘no deal’. I don’t understand – I am sure you have said that if the ‘deal’ is voted down we will automatically leave, with no deal, on 29th March 2019. It is even being said that we might have no Brexit at all. How could that be the case if we automatically leave on March 29th 2019.

    I am sure I am not the only person in the country who is confused and somewhat baffled by the sudden appearance of ‘No Brexit’ as an outcome. What is going on?

    Reply We leave with no deal unless Parliament legislates for some different outcome. No deal is te default position.

  50. bigneil
    November 24, 2018

    John – I’ve read elsewhere that someone from our govt is due to sign the UN Migration deal (follow on/part of the Barcelona declaration ) – -which will allow literally MILLIONS from anywhere to come straight here and that the Schengen wall will be worth absolutely NOTHING. – any comment from you?

  51. Mark
    November 24, 2018

    By age 12 at school I had been taught at school arithmetic, geometry and algebra, four languages, English language, grammar and literature, history, geography, chemistry, biology, physics, meteorology, R.E., music (singing and piano and theory), art, acting, reeling and writhing (Scottish, ballroom and “modern” dancing), basket weaving, carpentry, rifle shooting, badminton, croquet, fives, squash, tennis, table tennis, swimming, cricket, football, hockey, rugby, athletics and P.E., nature rambling, (kitchen) gardening, and probably several other skills that I have failed to list. We were also allowed our own time for outdoor play including in woods in school grounds and time limited unsupervised excursions in pairs into the surrounding town and countryside once aged 11. In addition we had school visits by the Fire Brigade, the Air/Sea Rescue helicopter, the Police, and made school trips to theatre, concerts, the circus, museums, the Houses of Parliament (including a PMQs session), local beaches.

    Obviously I was fortunate, but I commend the idea of trying to introduce young children into as wide a range of subjects and experiences as possible. It broadens appreciation of what other people do (I recall a series of films that showed the jobs of different trades without pulling punches – I particularly remember the trawlermen pitching on a rainswept deck in the North Sea, gutting cod – that were shown at school), as well as providing the opportunity to discover your own aptitudes.

  52. Robert Cale
    November 24, 2018

    The Primary School day is too long for children to focus and learn properly. Children under ten can’t focus for more that 15 to 30 mins and suffer from memory loss caused by interference if too much info is heaped onto them. Primary school should be mornings only but six days a week in stead of five. Secondary School should have more emphasis on vocational skills such as DIY, Mechanics and IT, abstract subjects like Social Sciences should be the remit of college. English and Maths however should be maintained and extended. The final year should be split between school, college and work placement, to transition the change from school to further education and work.

  53. Anonymous
    November 24, 2018

    Make all those thirty-year-0lds your government let in as ‘children’ to become teaching assistants instead of posing as students and ask them what to teach.

    When I said that fully grown men would end up sitting next to school girls they said I was being hysterical. Parents who complained about it were called racists.

    That’s OK. Andy and Newmania’s kids aren’t the ones putting up with it.

    This is the Tory party doing it to us. Could Corbyn really be any worse ?

    Are Andy and Newmania really so thick as to not understand why Brexit happened ???

  54. M Davis
    November 24, 2018

    My Mother, who was born in 1906 and was in part-time work at the age of 12 1/2 years old, could read, write, spell correctly, ‘reckon up’ and knew more History and Geography than a lot of children do today. She may not have been taught the Sciences but since the 1900’s we have become a degenerate Nation. Who’s fault is that?

  55. yossarion
    November 24, 2018

    That Teresa the appeaser will give away everything to stay in power?.

  56. DUNCAN
    November 24, 2018




    We ask you again John. When will you and your colleagues save the UK from this vile PM, her treachery and the total humiliation of our nation?


    We are begging you to do depose this person before we lose our country to thieves and parasites – EU, Ireland, Spain and Germany

    1. Mark
      November 25, 2018

      Perhaps there need to be 700,000 on the streets to say so first. However, the streets are the monopoly of Remain supporters it seems.

  57. Bob McMillan
    November 25, 2018

    It is true that many parents today try to keep their children in cotton wool as long as possible. A bad thing. But schools are for reading, writing and arithmetic. What’s wrong with the schools is that school days are too short and there are too few of them. The situation is much different in Hong Kong, Singapore, etc where pupils regularly lead our pupils by a long shot.

  58. Anthony
    November 25, 2018

    I’d like to see, in england, children taught how England was created. It’s a great story and the bad guys, the Vikings, are already in everyone’s bad books so shouldn’t offend anyone except the “I don’t like England” brigade. And I’d like to see the development of the English constitution. Including the story before the civil war, which to my mind is the most important part.

    This would be an education in how we became a nation, and 1000 years of learning to get along together. A lesson we probably need again right now.

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