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Citizenship to star in slimmer timetable

Citizenship and "preparation for adult life" are set to be a key part of plans for a new, pared-down national curriculum.

But subjects such as French and technology could be sidelined as schools are given greater freedom over syllabuses.

It is understood that the Government is about to ask its curriculum quango, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to create a less prescriptive version of the 10-subject syllabus. The emphasis will be on aims and outcomes rather than detailed work programmes. A consultation document is expected to be out soon.

At the same time, ministers are likely to reveal that schools have accepted their proposal to relax the primary curriculum from next September, to prioritise maths and English.

One of the major criticisms of the national curriculum has been its high level of detail and teaching unions will welcome its simplification.

This would also be in line QCA's thinking outlined over the past six months. A simpler curriculum would give schools more professional choice and would reduce teachers' workload.

However, the Government faces a major policy conflict, as it is determined to emphasise a range of life-skills subjects which are currently seen as peripheral. These include citizenship, personal and social education, moral and spiritual development, drugs and sex education.

Ministers are also highly prescriptive about the teaching of literacy and numeracy, giving instructions about teaching time and teaching methods.

This could be seen as conflicting with professional freedom.

Professor Bernard Crick's official working party has outlined plans for lessons in citizenship operating at around 5 per cent of curriculum time.

Soon the Government is expected to announce membership of its personal and social and health education advisory group.

Meanwhile, the school curriculum has come under increasing pressure from vocational specialisms with calls for lessons in money management, parenting and even driving.

David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, is particularly keen on citizenship education. A former pupil of Bernard Crick, he this week called for a renewal of democratic participation from the grassroots in a speech at the London School of Economics.

The Government also faces a conflict over whether to allow schools to exercise freedom in areas such as modern foreign languages which are thought to be economically vital.

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