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The new look stage by stage

Key stages 1 and 2: At primary level, the aim has been to clear space for the basics by cutting back on requirements for other subjects. SCAA chairman Sir Ron Dearing believes the cuts could free up the typical school's timetable for the equivalent of one day a week. But he agrees that a school with many pupils whose first language is not English will use much "free" time on literacy.

At KS2, where the overload is greatest, SCAA has cut 10 per cent more from the curriculum since the draft proposals published in May.

Sir Ron stresses that the national curriculum is not the whole curriculum, which includes RE, personal and social education, and other topics.

Coherence should have been improved, says Sir Ron, because the Orders have a common structure and are written in "plain English". SCAA's guidance on organising the whole curriculum should also help.

Key stage 3: The national curriculum has caused the least difficulty for lower secondary teachers, although conflict here has focused on the key stage 3 tests. Sir Ron has sought to assure teachers that improvements are being made and that next year's tests will be based on aspects included in the new curriculum.

The curriculum revisers have tried to ensure that there is a requirement for at least one aspect of each subject to be covered in depth; that there is flexibility; and that subjects not required at KS4 are covered in sufficient depth and breadth to enable informed choices at 14 and to provide a sound basis for future study and life outside school.

Key stage 4: Now that the national curriculum has been resolved for key stages 1, 2 and 3, the controversy has moved on to KS4, where the new curriculum does not take effect until 1996. There are deep concerns about the vocational option being developed. Sir Ron insists it will not be a bolt-on extra.

Although these two aspects of the post-14 curriculum have been developed separately, curriculum advisers at SCAA and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications are working to map the vocational core skills of literacy, numeracy and IT against the requirements for English, maths and IT in the national curriculum. "The way we have been mapping the core subjects shows we see it as integral", Sir Ron said.

The KS4 required curriculum has been cut to 60 per cent of time. History, geography, art and music are optional, and only short courses are required in modern languages and technology.

Schools are particularly concerned about unified planning for vocational and academic options, and will want to ensure these slot comfortably together. The vocational core criteria are soon to be published, and a pilot GNVQ is to begin in September 1995.

The timetable: November 1994: Page proof copies of new Orders going to schools.

JanuaryFebruary 1995: Published copies of new Orders going to schools. Guidance on revising the primary curriculum. Guidance on implementing new Design and Technology and IT Orders.

June 1995: Advice on Level Descriptions.

September 1995: New Orders take effect for key stages 1-3.

September 1996 New Orders take effect for key stage 4.

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