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Australia to introduce middle-years specialists;PrimarySecondary transfer

MINISTERS will be taking a keen interest in radical reforms to be piloted in Australia in an attempt to boost the performance of nine to 14-year-olds.

Innovations in Australia are likely to include a new class of teacher specialising in teaching this group, plus easy movement by staff between primaries and secondaries, and big changes to the traditional academic time-

table.

While British researchers are still investigating transition-aged children's underachievement, their Australian counterparts are setting out detailed plans for reform.

University of Melbourne academics Jean Russell and Peter Hill's recent report called the Middle Years Research and Development Project, is believed to be highly thought of by key policy-makers in the Department for Education and Employment.

The report calls for fundamental changes in attitudes towards secondary schooling. "Any serious reform of the middle years involves a more student-focused approach to teaching and one less driven by the imperative to cover curriculum content," they say.

"Action will be taken to curb uncontrolled expansion in the breadth of the curriculum for students in the middle years; identify a manageable core of knowledge appropriate to this stage of schooling and allow greater opportunity for sustained personal endeavour, in-depth learning and the pursuit of excellence."

They say there should be a new breed of specialist middle-years teachers with "in-depth knowledge of at least two specialist areas" They should also be able to "promote high standards of literacy, numeracy and other core knowledge, including the use of new information technologies".

Teachers would move between the two sectors easily and be organised into "middle-years" teaching teams, with school timetables rewritten to ensure longer, "uninterrupted blocks of time for learning and close relations between students and the teams of teachers".

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