PLANS to give teachers more flexibility in the new national curriculum - currently out for consultation - were watered down at the 11th hour by Education Secretary David Blunkett.
He insisted that English and history lessons should be more traditional and rejected plans to allow teachers more power to decide what to teach - just four weeks before the publication of the proposed new curriculum in May.
Mr Blunkett's concerns are revealed in his official letter of response to the Government's curriculum quango, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, on its proposals for the curriculum for 2000.
The QCA wanted Shakespeare to be dropped from the compulsory study for 11 to 14-year-olds, and famous names and key dates to be cut from history lessons to allow teachers more flexibility.
Mr Blunkett has insisted that historical figures and major events be reinstated, although they now appear in lists of recommended study - not as part of the compulsory curriculum.
The QCA wanted Shakespeare to be mandatory only for GCSE students. Now all secondary pupils will continue to study his plays.
Mr Blunkett's letter to the QCA said: "It is essential that the programme of study provides a clear grounding in the core elements of our national history and the key events and personalities involved. I would therefore ask that you carry forward from the current programme of study the names and events which are cited, and include them as examples in the revised texts."
The letter also reveals Mr Blunkett's doubts about some of the proposals for other subjects. He sees "potential difficulties" in the introduction of two tiers of GCSE maths study; is concerned that renaming art as "art and design" will cause confusion with design and technology, and regards compulsory study of food technology for secondaries as "a potential burden on some schools".
On April 16 he wrote to the QCA saying he was completely happy with its proposed geography curriculum. However, two weeks later, after a flurry of newspaper stories protesting that the study of maps had been dropped, he was said to be furious at the authority's proposals and insisted that compulsory maps be reinstated.
The consultation period ends on July 23. To obtain consultation documents phone 01787 884444.