No. 10’s response to e-petition on evolution in the primary school
The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to an e-petition that read:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to include the teaching of evolution by natural selection in the new national primary curriculum.
Details of Petition:
Scientists are agreed that all todayâ€™s living organisms have evolved over millions of years from simpler organisms. This evolution is best explained by Darwinâ€™s theory of natural selection and its subsequent refinement. Natural selection is the most powerful tool for understanding living things. The current draft curriculum includes living things but omits evolution and natural selection. These ideas are needed to lay a foundation for later studies and to help children see their place in the living world and the universe.
The response from No.10 reads:
The future economic success of the UK is dependent upon a good supply of skilled scientists and engineers. The Government is therefore committed to increasing the number of young people that fully engage in science education whilst at school, particularly, for instance, encouraging the study of three separate science GCSEs. This is crucial if we want to increase numbers taking science at A level and beyond. Carving out a place for science within the primary curriculum that is engaging and relevant, and one which provides a smooth transition to secondary education, will provide the foundation needed to help achieve these aims.
The proposed new primary curriculum has been developed in consultation with a wide range of key stakeholders including primary head teachers, teachers, subject specialists and learned societies. The development of the scientific and technological understanding area of learning was directly informed by the outcomes of the consultation exercise to ensure that it contained the scientific knowledge, skills and understanding considered essential learning for children aged 5 -11.
The National Curriculum science programmes of study cover evolution explicitly in Key Stage 4 (age 14 -16). The understanding of evolution is underpinned by extensive knowledge about the living world. This underpinning knowledge and understanding for evolution is carefully developed in the primary curriculum and at Key Stage 3 (age 11 -14). In both the current primary programme of study for science and in the proposed programme of learning for scientific and technological understanding, variation between individuals and groups, classification and interdependence are all introduced. At secondary level these areas are developed further and genetics, selection and evolution are all included. In this way the fundamental concepts underpinning evolution are developed, leading to a fuller understanding at Key Stage 4.
It’s the “explicitly” bit that’s disappointing. Evolution should be explicitly included in the primary curriculum, so that children learn what it means much earlier than Key Stage 3.