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Designer of discretionary power

The TES reports as the Government publishes its slimline curriculum after a Pounds 6 million consultation programme.

Sir Ron Dearing, the review's architect, talks to Diane Hofkins. Sir Ron Dearing, whose revised national curriculum was published yesterday, has reassured schools that their pupils will not be tested on outdated requirements. Although the old curriculum Orders prevail until July 1995, in primary schools and at key stage 3, the summer 1995 tests will be based on material which is in the new version.

Teachers have expressed concern that the coming tests would be irrelevant if they were based on an outgoing curriculum. However, although the new curriculum has been vastly restructured, the basic content that has to be taught has not been changed, only reduced, so test material is easily chosen from what is left.

Sir Ron, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, said feedback on last year's tests had been largely positive, and work to improve the new ones was under way.

He said teacher assessment would remain as important as tests. The new level descriptions, which are to be used by teachers as a broad guide to pupils' attainments, had been revised extensively in the wake of the consultation exercise. They replace the current, detailed statements of attainment which led to the notorious ticklists and "atomised" the curriculum.

The Education Secretary, Gillian Shephard, has lifted her ban on bumpf in order to allow SCAA to put out advice on how to use them - first for the core subjects of English, maths and science next summer, and later for other subjects. SCAA will also be sending out advice in the winter on implementing the new technology Order, which has been drastically changed, and the information technology Order, which has become a separate subject.

There will also be guidance for primary schools on revising the curriculum across the whole school.

Sir Ron said he was sure that the new curriculum would provide long-term stability, and had been trimmed enough to free up a day a week for the typical school.

"I hope teachers will feel we have been listening very hard to what they have been saying," he said.

But it was also up to schools to make it work, he said, and they had considerable discretion in how to use the new Orders.

The end of ticklists meant that schools could decide how much emphasis to put on different aspects of the Orders. In a letter going to all schools this month, Sir Ron and Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, say: "SCAA has sought to provide schools with a real opportunity for the exercise of discretion about the extent to which they pursue particular parts of the curriculum for a subject more deeply than others. Indeed, we expect schools to use that discretion."

They stress there is no need to keep highly detailed records.

The Key Points. * Radical slimming down of content in all but the core subjects of English, mathematics and science.

* Prescription reduced.

* Significant concessions on Standard English, book lists and phonics in English.

* More flexibility in design and technology gives the study of food increased status.

* Competitive games compulsory.

* Information technology curriculum written as a separate subject.

* An end to "tick-lists" as broader level descriptions replace statements of attainment * Five-year period of stability.

* A total of 58,000 written responses in the consultation exercise.

* The revision process has cost Pounds 3 million since April 1993 and will have cost Pounds 6 million by the time the newcurriculum is in place.

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