New curriculum of choice

But Assembly government's proposed changes trigger concern over increased workload

PROPOSALS FOR a new-look skills-based national curriculum to be introduced in September 2008 have been largely welcomed in Wales, but they have also prompted fears about extra workload.

But one teachers' union has stood alone in its damning criticism, saying pupils will be bored by the revised curriculum.

In its official response to the Assembly government's proposals, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Cymru said the new curriculum was a missed opportunity to bring real excitement into learning and does not match other revolutionary changes in Welsh education, such as the 14-19 learning pathways initiative and the Welsh baccalaureate.

The new draft curriculum is intended to be less prescriptive for teachers - especially at key stage 4, where it is intended to allow learners more choice from a wider variety of academic and vocational qualifications.

Maths has been made more relevant to the 21st century and is aimed at equipping pupils for "citizenship, community life and employability". In English, Shakespeare classics will be made more accessible by not making students read the original texts.

But Dr Philip Dixon, director of ATL Cymru, said the revisions of the 12 subject orders of the curriculum do not go far enough and leave it too pre-determined and subject-based.

"These proposals are too timid and are out of kilter with the education agenda developed during the Assembly's second term," he said. "We need to see more joined-up thinking and more radical questioning."

Consultation on the proposals ended on March 30. The government intends the new single framework to provide for three to 19-year-olds, with strong links to the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds and the 14-19 learning pathways initiative.

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, said the revisions had moved the curriculum on from being "inflexible and constraining". But along with other consultees she warned that the changes would add to the workload of heads and schools that were already struggling.

Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres school in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, and vice-president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, also welcomed the proposals.

Pat Clarke, head of St Mary's Church aided school in Overton-on-Dee, Wrexham, said the move away from a content-driven curriculum would help pupils to learn better at primary level. But she added: "There will need to be an awful lot of sharing of good practice across all phases if the new curriculum is to work out."

In his official response to the review, Gareth Jones, secretary of ASCL Cymru, warned of the "considerable workload implications" during the change. He called on Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, to investigate whether the proposals meet the skills needs for different areas across Wales.

Leader, page 20

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