Nine to four is out the door

Turning up for school at 9am and leaving at 3.45pm is probably an "outdated concept", John Stodter, Aberdeen's director of education, said this week following the launch of a sweeping review of secondary structures in the city.

Mr Stodter predicts secondaries could look remarkably different in 10 years. Pupils could be learning through CD-Roms, video conferencing and other new media, changing the nature of teaching. More specialist schools may also be on offer to challenge traditional comprehensive education.

Councillors on Tuesday agreed to consult over the next year before any further substantial changes are made to the curriculum or pattern of buildings. Roll projections indicate a secondary might have to close within eight years because of surplus capacity. Around 1,500 spare places will be available in the secondary sector by 2006.

Mr Stodter said: "Everything about the secondary curriculum is up for change. I do not think you would plan secondary education for 2010 with the current structure and approach. The Scottish parliament will have absolute power over education, so it's time to look at the big picture for the new millennium. "

Aberdeen is already consulting on redrafting the school year after research showed that six or seven-week summer holidays hindered learning and increased costs. Radical changes to timetabling could improve school capacity by a quarter or achieve the same level of school capacity with 25 per cent fewer classrooms.

Developments in IT could allow secondary pupils to work from home and network with others, while the conventional school day would also be challenged by the needs of lifelong learning drive and child care.

Changes to the curriculum in the first two secondary years, the introduction of Higher Still and the ending of age and stage restrictions added to the pressure for a review, Mr Stodter said.

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