From September, Year 10 pupils at Bryn Hafren girls' school, in the Vale of Glamorgan, will be offered the option of pared-down English, maths and science GCSEs. This will free up space for new courses, including vocational subjects such as beauty and childcare.
This curriculum will act as a prototype for the Welsh Assembly's 14-19 Learning Pathways initiative which will offer teenagers a choice of academic, vocational or combined routes of study.
Ian Kilcoyne, deputy head of Bryn Hafren, said: "We want to match courses to girls' abilities and interests. We want pupils to have more choice. They can follow a totally traditional or vocational curriculum. Or they can mix."
The school has developed links with local further education colleges, where pupils can spend one day a week studying courses not offered at school, such as electronics and hairdressing. The benefits are mutual: school funds are being used to equip a second hairdressing salon at the college. Laurie Caldwell, 14, said: "I'm taking hair and beauty. And I'm doing business studies instead of English literature. It'll help me find a job."
A Welsh Assembly spokesperson said: "We support innovation by schools to create appropriate pathways for individual learners. However, statutory curriculum requirements remain, and schools must work within these."