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Another 'ology' will be bilingual

Pupils could be asked to analyse binge drinking and homosexual relationships as part of the first bilingual A-level psychology exam in the UK.

They could also be booking tickets to see top hypnotist Paul McKenna as the study of nightmares, lucid dreams and hypnosis are also contained in the syllabus - along with depression, stress, divorce and teenage rebellion.

The WJEC, the Welsh examination body, has launched the subject at A-level after years of pressure from teachers and pupils - especially from Welsh-medium schools. It means A and AS-level psychology can be taken in Welsh for the first time from this September. Interest, however, has also come from England-based teachers who are looking for a more "lateral-thinking" syllabus.

All three of England's exam boards currently offer the subject at A-level.

But Alison George, WJEC psychology subject officer, claimed its specification, which is based on four major psychological approaches, is different because it covers such a wide area of learning. She said "no trick" questions would help pupils answer to the best of their ability.

Alun Ellis, WJEC subject adviser, said the return of hypnosis to an A-level psychology syllabus in the UK could make it popular. Under present guidelines, pupils cannot undergo hypnosis as part of an experiment in lesson time.

However, they will have to study the form of consciousness through observation.

Teachers from across the UK discussed the proposed syllabus at a recent meeting in Cardiff. Philippa Dixey, from Coleg Gwent in Newport, said the WJEC specification was well thought out for D and E-grade pupils, but also gave scope for the more able students to think around the subject.

Janis Griffiths, head of social sciences at Bryn Hafren comprehensive in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, said the real-life content of the new A-level would make it a popular choice. She will be one of many non-specialists expected to teach the new course. The school is taking on the subject because pupils said they were interested.

"I took psychology as a third subject at university," said Ms Griffiths.

"The new specification from the WJEC appears to suit all academic abilities."

She believes the "ologies" like psychology are more demanding than other humanities subjects, such as history.

"For a teenager to get a C-grade A-level in sociology takes some doing - pupils have to demonstrate great maturity to get to grips with it at such an early age. The same could be said for psychology."

Fifteen teachers helped put together the WJEC specification, and plan to "tweak" it over the next two years.


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