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Curriculum cut to side of A4

THE terrifying bulk of the national curriculum has been chopped down to just one side of A4 paper per subject as part of the Government's slim-down of the primary syllabus.

The six "non-core" subjects, which formerly occupied a small mountain of folders, are now presented in a single volume.

It summarises the essential elements that schools should teach if they wish to re-jig their curriculum. From September they will be free to cut down on non-essential subjects - geography, history, PE, design and technology, art and music - in order to spend more time on maths and English.

Long on aims and short on detailed content, this week's document is expected to be a model for the way that the whole national curriculum is re-shaped for 2000.

The primary cut-back is technically a two-year suspension of the national curriculum.

Ministers proposed it after complaints from primary teachers that the full detail of the curriculum made it hard to implement the national literacy strategy. The plan received overwhelming support from primary and secondary schools during consultation.

Launching this week's guidance document, junior minister Estelle Morris dismissed suggestions that music and the arts will suffer at the expense of English and maths.

"All the subjects are still compulsory," she said. "No subject - not sport, history or geography - has ceased to be compulsory. They were compulsory, they are compulsory and they will remain compulsory."

Schools will, however, be free to cut down on some of the detail formerly specified - on condition that the curriculum as a whole remains broad and balanced.

There has, as anticipated, been particular protection for swimming which remains compulsory. Outdoor games such as football will now be optional.

Nick Tate, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, dismissed suggestions that schools would try to ignore some subjects altogether. He also promised there would be no return to topic work.

Document of the Week, page 23

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