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End of the long break?

Estyn report calls for shorter summer holiday and curriculum and teaching revamps

MOVES TO scrap the long school summer holiday have overshadowed calls for a new seven to 14 curriculum contained in the Transforming Schools discussion paper.

The 34-page document, by Welsh inspectorate Estyn, probes ways of bringing Welsh education into the 21st century - including a need for better curriculum and teaching methods at late key stage 2 and early KS3.

But it was plans to cut the traditional six-week summer break, along with a three-term calendar, that has proved most controversial in early feedback.

The knock-on effect with the Easter holidays would also cause "major disruption," according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru. But it has also emerged this week that consultations on a possible five-term academic year have already taken place in some areas of Wales, with good support.

Inspectors suggest a separate curriculum to fill an existing gap between the new play-led foundation phase (FP), being rolled out to all schools in 2008, and the 14-19 learning pathways agenda.

The paper claims young learners who have gone through the FP will have a "different and higher set of aspirations and expectations than present pupils".

Estyn contends that their learning-through-play experience up to age seven will only be built on if a new curriculum is introduced.

The paper also suggests radical changes are needed to the vocationally led 14-19 learning pathways for the fledgling initiative to succeed. Assembly government consultation has already begun on making better links within the national curriculum to the FP and the 14-19 agenda.

Today is the closing date for proposals to make the curriculum more learner-centred and focused on skills by September 2008. But unions have already said the proposals may not go far enough.

According to the new paper, post-seven learning is too heavily weighted on content, with not enough emphasis on skills across the curriculum. But it went on to say that it is succeeding much better than at KS3, where many pupils were bored.

"Curriculum delivery is fragmented into discrete subject-based study, all taught by different teachers who only have limited contact with classes and therefore get to know their pupils and their learning needs a lot less,"

says the paper.

It also suggests pupils should not move into secondary education until they are ready. Elsewhere, it says there are enough bilingual FP teachers to ensure a generation of new Welsh speakers.

The paper also said there should be more focus on promoting values along with sustainable development and global citizenship.

ASCL Cymru secretary Gareth Jones said: "This is a thoughtful document which I'm sure will provoke discussion. The proposed change in holiday dates could have serious practical implications."


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