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A chance to break the mould;Subject of the week;Economics and business

Changes to post-16 education give economics and business teachers a golden opportunity, writes Jenny Wales

Do you remember the Dearing Report? You might even remember Higginson, but be careful - you would be showing your age. At last the Government's reform of post-16 studies has given the go-ahead for new structures and shapes. The gold standard of A-level remains but the ingot is from a new mould - the same one as GNVQ.

Teachers of economics and business should welcome these changes, which provide opportunities for permeating the subjects throughout the curriculum.

This may not be all. Rumour has it that the national curriculum review will reduce the size of the core curriculum, increasing the space available for business and economics. We may no longer have to fight for that corner in the one remaining option block, but be recognised as the highly motivating subjects the evidence so often shows.

The Economics and Business Education Association has been working hard to ensure that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Department for Education and Employment know all about our mission to raise the subjects' profile.

The arrival of GNVQ Part 1 also opens the way for increased participation. Even the Office for Standards in Education has come close to enthusiasm about the outcomes of the business pilot.

Countdown to 2000 May 1999: Awarding bodies submit new specifications to QCA.

July 1999: QCA responds.

November 1999: Final approval.

January 2000: New specifications in schools and colleges.

A-level fact file * New specifications (syllabuses) will be divided into units.

* An AS-level will be three units at the standard expected by the end of the first year of the course.

* An A-level will be at the traditional level and will require three more units at this higher level.l Exams will take place in January and June.

* Exams can be taken through the course or at the end.

* Full specifications will be available by January 2000. Draft or outline versions should be available earlier.

A-level opportunities An extra subject at AS? Make the most of it. Economics and business provide tempting options for many students who have chosen a specialist range of A-levels. You might even need an extra set. Just wait for the exciting new AS courses.

GNVQ fact file * The new Advanced courses will be available as a Single Award with six units or a Double Award with 12 units.

* The units are being revised in the light of the pilot.

* Each unit will have one form of assessment - internal or external.

* Part 1 goes live in 1999 on the old specs. New specs will be introduced in 2000. They will be "nested" so easier to co-teach.

* Key skills will be assessed separately but will remain an integral part of the course.

GNVQ opportunities Single or double? The single award opens up another opportunity for business education as more students will have access to vocational qualifications. Students who feel anxious about making a full commitment to a vocational future may feel less constrained. But don't forget the full award. There are many students for whom it is just right.

Part 1 There is more than a hint that Part 1 will be big. Unless you are already involved with GNVQ at Foundation and Intermediate, steer clear until 2000. You don't want to prepare for the old specs, only to find a new ball game after just one year.

Key skills fact file * All six key skills (communication, information technology, application of number, improving own learning and performance, working with others, problem-solving) will be part of the curriculum for everyone.

* To be taken by all students but assessed separately from A-level or GNVQ.

* Assessed through an internal and external mix.

* Contributions to portfolios from across the curriculum.

* UCAS is working on their tariff points.

Key skills opportunities Business and economics provide a multitude of opportunities to generate key skills evidence. You need do little more than you do already in some areas. In others a key skills strategy could add an even greater real-world dimension to your course. Tell the world. Your students (and senior management) will be pleased to hear you can make key skills easy for them. The DFEE is working on teacher support, so keep your eyes open.

Over to you Make the most of this opportunity. Economics numbers have been in decline recently; business studies is still on an upward trend but others are coming up behind.

Think about your market:

* How can you use the new specifications to change or maintain the trend?

* Do your students want course work?

* Do they like modularity?

* What topics will catch their imagination?

* How can you use the specification to best advantage?

The Economics and Business Education Association will be providing one-day conferences which aim to help you chose a new specification and to put them into practice.

Jenny Wales is chair of the Economics and Business Education Association and co-director of Nuffield Economics and Business

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