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HMI plans will mean limit on subjects

The number of subjects and teachers for first and second-year pupils will be + restricted if schools fall in behind HMI recommendations published this + week.The proposals were backed by Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, who + has called for a progress report by June 1999. An existing HMI will be given + special responsibility for chasing up progress through district inspectors.The + long-awaited HMI report on "Achieving Success in S1S2" admits there has been + "a continuing failure to give these crucial years the priority they require".A + remarkable admission by Douglas Osler, the senior chief inspector of schools, + says the Government has presided over this state of affairs for more than 10 + years. Weaknesses identified in the report echo 1986 findings by the + inspectorate on the first two years of secondary, he said. The time had now + come for "clear and sustained action". The failure to make progress, the report+ states, is reflected in the lack of urgency by secondary schools in + implementing the 5-14 programme and by the fresh start approach which ignores + attainment evidence from primaries. HMI condemns this as "untenable".The + inspectorate is now clearly running out of patience with the 5-14 delays in + secondary schools. Graham Donaldson, the depute senior chief, told the press + on Wednesday it was "hard to be sympathetic" towards secondaries when, unlike + primaries, they had subject departments and management time to pursue the + reforms. But Mr Osler hinted that the deadline for implementing the programme + by the end of the 1998-99 session was not rigid. "I am more interested in + evidence of progress and whether schools have plans to make progress rather + than stamping my feet on the floor and insisting on a mechanistic timescale," + he commented.The inspectorate report admits time is not on its side and says + "rapid progress" will have to be made by secondary schools, particularly in + environmental studies, the expressive arts and religious education. A recent + study showed that secondaries were only at the discussion and awareness-raising+ stages in these three areas.As forecast in The TESS on October 3, the report + nonetheless rejects "radical surgery" for S1S2. The inspectorate believes that+ a fully-fledged 5-14 programme, with an added level F to stretch the ablest, + will stop pupils coasting. There should be a statement of each pupil's 5-14 + achievements at the end of S2, the report states, particularly for those + subjects they are not pursuing into S3.But HMI says that, without better + continuity and progression in pupils' learning from upper primary to S4, the + existence of 5-14 "will not in itself bring about an appropriate rise in + standards. "

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