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Choice squeezed at 14

Schools will be able to choose whether to teach 14-year-olds history or geography and will have to offer only one modern language, under major curriculum changes to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday.

Critics warn that the reforms, which also mean that pupils will be able to drop foreign languages and design and technology at 14, could narrow the curriculum.

A cross-party committee will look at the proposals. They were being discussed by peers as The TES went to press. If the proposals are agreed by Parliament, the legislation will come into effect in September 2004.

Maths, English and science would remain compulsory core subjects.

Information and communications technology, citizenship, physical, religious, careers and sex education would be compulsory foundation subjects.

Schools will have to offer at least one option in modern languages, the arts, and the humanities, as well as design and technology.

But Graham Brady, shadow schools minister, said: "I am very concerned that this will lead to the narrowing of choice. Pupils could be told they cannot study more than one language from 14, or both history and geography."

Mr Brady said that he would prefer history to be made compulsory in place of citizenship.

"What's the point, for example, of pupils learning about the functions of the Houses of Parliament in a citizenship class if they do not understand the history behind them?" he asked.

The Government says that the changes will increase flexibility and choice at key stage 4.

But Se n Lang, a member of the Historical Association's secondary education committee, said that the Government was making an unsatisfactory situation worse.

Timetable constraints and a tendency to push less able pupils towards IT resulted in most pupils not being able to study both history and geography at KS4.

David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, said that giving pupils the opportunity to study at least one of the humanities, which are not compulsory at KS4, was a "step in the right direction".

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