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Girls swap English for hairdressing

Pupils at a south Wales comprehensive are to design their own timetables, allowing them to do less English or science in favour of vocational subjects.

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."

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