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At loggerheads over 14 to 19s

The Welsh Assembly's reforms are helping the principality to fashion its own educational identity, writes Adi Bloom

THE Welsh Assembly should have been bolder in its reform of the 14-19 curriculum, unions said this week, as ministers revealed support for the changes.

Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly minister for education and lifelong learning, last week presented the results of extended consultation on her proposals.

The new curriculum would incorporate work experience and out-of-school study into secondary learning. Pupils would be able to pursue work-based or academic qualifications, or mix advanced study and work experience.

Ms Davidson said the consultation showed public approval for her proposals.

"There is recognition of the need to engage in change I for young people at all levels of ability," she said. "There is support for the proposed balance between knowledge, practical application and essential skill development for young people, taking into account all aspects of their lives."

Teachers, educationists and pupils were invited to comment on the proposals during three months' consultation. But teachers' unions have argued that Ms Davidson did not address some key concerns.

Gethin Lewis, Welsh secretary of the National Union of Teachers, believes that the new curriculum will not break down all barriers between academic and work-based qualifications. It offers distinct academic and vocational pathways rather than letting young people "mix and match" from both routes.

"We want pupils to be able to take the best from all routes," he said. "We believe there is considerable consensus in Wales that the divide between academic and vocational education should disappear."

International, 12

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