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Glasgow prunes social subjects

Teachers' pleas for something to give in the overloaded primary curriculum have been answered in Glasgow. The sacrifice is social subjects - history, geography and modern studies - which are to be slimmed down to make way for more focused work on driving up attainment.

A council working group that involved headteachers and union representatives has concluded that the chief cause of overload is environmental studies and the outcomes in units centred on People in the Past (history), People in Place (geography) and People in Society (modern studies).

Councillors this week approved a plan to allow schools to cut back the number of social subjects from three to two over a year and meet all three attainment outcomes over a two-year period. Pupils will be less rushed and will be able to study units in more depth. Any extra time created will be retained within environmental studies.

Officials advise that breadth and balance concerns can now be "interpreted on a termly yearly seven-yearly basis - not weekly". Heads will therefore be asked to ensure pupils cover the curriculum over the short and long terms.

Schools should also look for cross-curricular overlaps in areas such as religious education, personal and social development, and health to cut back on curriculum burdens. "Teachers should feel confident about not repeating lessons where there is a clear overlap of attainment (learning) outcomes," the city points out.

Glasgow argues that further progress in improving standards is being hindered by curriculum overload. An additional factor is the cut in teachers' class contact time to 23.5 hours a week this August, which will be reduced further to 22.5 by 2006.

In the 14 years since the 5-14 curriculum was introduced, modern languages, ICT, enterprise education and personal and social education have been added to the subject list while science and technology are now treated separately.

Teachers are also expected to devote more time to literacy and numeracy following guidelines on early intervention.

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