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Disastrous first year for key skills

'Hyperactive' government must learn to trust schools, heads' conference told. Clare Dean and Karen Thornton report

MANY schools will drop key skills from September after some of their brightest pupils failed exams in basic numeracy, literacy and computers.

More than 80 per cent of sixth-formers in some schools failed exams in key skills in January, according to Gareth Matthewson, head of one of the country's biggest schools.

Heads claim the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has made the key skills tests too hard and that the whole system is a shambles.

The Government introduced key skills for sixth-formers in use of number, communication, information and communications technology, problem-solving, working with others and improving your own learning last September as part of the new A-level curriculum. Schools can choose which, if any, o teach and when pupils should be examined in them. Most pupils face exams in June. Students have also completed a portfolio in each subject.

But as The TES revealed last month, most sixth-formers who sat exams in January failed to achieve level 3 - the expected standard for candidates with good GCSEs.

Key skills - which can earn up to 30 university entrance points - have largely been ignored by private school. Around six in 10 state schools are teaching them.

Students and staff have complained they cannot cope with the workloads of key skills and revamped A-levels.

Mr Matthewson, head of Whitchurch high in Cardiff, predicted many state schools would eliminate the courses from the timetable.

David Hart, NAHT general secretary, called for a government inquiry into the how the first year of the A-level Curriculum 2000 had gone.

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