The coverage of the Cambridge Primary Review was expressed as a hierarchy of perspectives, themes and questions. We started with three broad perspectives: children, the world in which they are growing up, and the education which mediates that world and prepares them for it. These were the Review’s core concerns and recurrent points of reference. Next, ten themes and 23 sub-themes unpacked the education perspective in greater detail while remaining permeated by the other two. Finally, for every theme there was a set of questions.
- P1 Children and childhood
- P2 Culture, society and the global context
- P3 Primary education
Themes and sub-themes
T1 Purposes and values
- T1a Values, beliefs and principles
- T1b Aims
T2 Learning and teaching
- T2a Children’s development and learning
- T2b Teaching
T3 Curriculum and assessment
- T3a Curriculum
- T3b Assessment
T4 Quality and standards
- T4a Standards
- T4b Quality assurance and inspection
T5 Diversity and inclusion
- T5a Culture, gender, race, faith
- T5b Special educational needs
T6 Settings and professionals
- T6a Buildings and resources
- T6b Teacher supply, training, deployment & development
- T6c Other professionals
- T6d School organisation, management & leadership
- T6e School culture and ethos
T7 Parenting and caring
- T7a Parents and carers
- T7b Home and school
T8 Beyond the school
- T8a Children’s lives beyond the school
- T8b Schools and other agencies
T9 Structures and phases
- T9a Within-school structures, stages, classes & groups
- T9b System-level structures, phases & transitions
T10 Funding and governance
- T10a Funding
- T10b Governance
Perspective 1 Children and childhood
- What do we know about young children’s lives in and out of school, and about the nature of childhood, at the start of the 21st century?
- How do children of primary school age develop, think, feel, act and learn?
- To which of the myriad individual and collective differences between children should educators and related professionals particularly respond?
- What do children most fundamentally need from those charged with providing their primary education?
Perspective 2 Culture, society and the global context
- In what kind of society and world are today’s children growing up and being educated?
- In what do England’s (and Britain’s) cultural differences and commonalities reside?
- What is the country’s likely economic, social and political future?
- Is there a consensus about the ‘good society’ and education’s role in helping to shape and secure it?
- What can we predict about the future – social, economic, environmental, moral, political – of the wider world with which Britain is interdependent?
- What, too, does this imply for children and primary education?
- What must be done in order that today’s children, and their children, have a future worth looking forward to?
Perspective 3 Primary education
- Taking the system as a whole, from national policy and overall structure to the fine detail of school and classroom practice, what are the current characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the English state system of primary education?
- To what needs and purposes should it be chiefly directed over the coming decades?
- What values should it espouse?
- What learning experiences should it provide?
- By what means can its quality be secured and sustained?
Theme 1 Purposes and values
- What is primary education for?
- Taking account of the country and the world in which our children are growing up, to what individual, social, cultural, economic and other circumstances and needs should this phase of education principally attend?
- What core values and principles should it uphold and advance?
- How far can a national system reflect and respect the values and aspirations of the many different communities – cultural, ethnic, religious, political, economic, regional, local – for which it purportedly caters?
- In envisaging the future purposes and shape of this phase of education how far ahead is it possible or sensible to look?
Theme 2 Learning and teaching
- What do we know about the way young children develop, act and learn – cognitively, emotionally, socially, morally, physically and across the full spectrum of their development?
- What are the pedagogical implications of recent research in, for example, neuroscience, cognition, intelligence, language and human interaction?
- What is the relationship between children’s physical health, emotional wellbeing and learning?
- What is the impact of gender on learning?
- What are the personal and situational circumstances for effective learning and what conditions are likely to impede it?
- As children move developmentally through the primary phase how do they learn best and how are they most effectively taught?
- Judged against all this evidence, how do current teaching approaches fare?
- How well do they capitalise on the findings of research?
- What is the proper place of ICT and other new technologies in teaching and learning?
- How can teaching, and the system as a whole, most appropriately respond to differences in children’s development, ways of learning and apparent capacities and needs?
- In what ways might teaching, and the organisation of classrooms and schools, change in order to enhance young children’s engagement and learning and maximise their educational prospects?
Theme 3 Curriculum and assessment
- What do children currently learn during the primary phase?
- What should they learn?
- What constitutes a meaningful, balanced and relevant primary curriculum?
- What kinds of curriculum experience will best serve children’s varying needs during the next few decades?
- Do notions like ‘basics’ and ‘core curriculum’ have continuing validity, and if so of what should 21st-century basics and cores for the primary phase be constituted?
- Do the current national curriculum and attendant foundation, literacy, numeracy and primary strategies provide the range and approach which children of this age really need?
- How are the different needs of children, including those with specific learning difficulties, currently diagnosed?
- How should their progress and attainment be assessed?
- What is the proper relationship and balance of assessment for learning and assessment for accountability?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to assessment, both national and local?
- What assessment information should be reported, and to whom?
- What is the most helpful balance of national and local in curriculum and assessment?
Theme 4 Quality and standards
- How good is English primary education?
- How consistent is it across the country as a whole?
- Have standards risen or fallen?
- How do they compare with those of other countries?
- How should ‘standards’ and ‘quality’ in primary education be defined?
- How should quality and standards be assessed?
- What is the available range of national and international evidence on these matters?
- How reliable is it?
- How well, and how appropriately, is it used?
- What are the most effective contributions to assessing and assuring standards and quality of, for example, research, inspection, government initiatives, school and teacher self-evaluation, performance management, pre-service training and in-service training?
- What are the proper roles in the processes of systemic review and quality assurance of DfES, Ofsted, the other national agencies and Parliament?
Theme 5 Diversity and inclusion
- Do our primary schools attend effectively and equitably to the different learning needs and cultural backgrounds of their pupils?
- Do all children have equal access to high quality primary education?
- If not, how can this access be improved?
- How can a national system best respond to the wide diversity of cultures, faiths, languages and aspirations which is now a fact of British life?
- Of what is identity constituted in a highly plural culture, and what should be the role of primary education in fostering it?
- How can primary schools best meet the needs of children of widely-varying attainments and interests, including children with special educational needs and those who display or may have exceptional talents?
- How can schools secure the engagement of those children and families which are hardest to reach?
Theme 6 Settings and professionals
- What are the physical and organisational characteristics of our best primary schools?
- How are they resourced and equipped?
- How are they organised and led?
- What are the lessons for school design and organisation of recent national initiatives?
- What balance of expertise, and of teachers, assistants and other para-professionals, should schools contain and how should they be used?
- What are the conditions for their success?
- What are the future workforce needs of the phase as a whole?
- How can these be met?
- How well are teachers and other professionals involved in this age-range trained?
- How effectively are they deployed?
- How well is their development supported at school, local and national levels?
- How can the nation secure and retain the best professionals for this phase of education?
Theme 7 Parenting, caring and educating
- What are the parenting and caring conditions on which children’s welfare and their successful primary education depend?
- But what, too, should educational and other services do to support parents and carers in their work?
- How are the challenges of home-school relationships most effectively met?
- By what means can parents/carers, teachers and other professionals operate as far as possible in harmony and pursue goals which, while not identical, are not in such conflict that they damage the child’s educational prospects?
Theme 8 Beyond the school
- What do we know about children’s lives beyond school and the impact of those groups and influences – family, peers, community, media and so on – to which they are subject?
- What kinds of learning take place outside school?
- What is the current division of responsibilities between the people, institutions and agencies who are principally concerned with young children’s education and those who are concerned with their upbringing and welfare – parents and carers especially, but also health services, social services and other statutory and voluntary agencies?
- How successfully does their work articulate and cohere?
- In the context of changing familial demographics and growing concern about young children’s wellbeing, might these relationships, and the attendant responsibilities, be differently conceived?
Theme 9 Structures and phases
- How well do existing structures and phases – ‘educare’ and schooling, pre-school in its various forms, infant/junior/primary, first/middle, foundation/KS1/KS2 – work?
- What are the salient characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the various institutions and settings in which primary education takes place?
- Are there problems of coherence, transition and continuity within and between phases?
- How can these be overcome?
- What can the primary phase profitably learn from developments in the phases which precede and follow it?
- How are children grouped within the primary phase and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different grouping arrangements?
- When should formal schooling start, bearing in mind that many other countries start later than we do and conceive of the relationship of pre-school and formal schooling somewhat differently?
- Are there more effective alternatives to current structures?
Theme 10 Funding and governance
- How adequately is the system of primary education in England funded and how efficiently is it controlled and administered?
- Does it have the right balance of control and responsibility between national government, local government, local communities and schools?
- What has been the impact of the post-1988 drive to a more centralised system?
- What should be the position of faith schools?
- Through what system of school governance are the interests of children, teachers, parents and local communities most effectively and equitably addressed?
- How might matters be differently ordered?