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Pupils who lead the field for work

Ofsted's key stage 4 findings

WHEN JUDITH smith became head of Babington community college in Leicester eight years ago, she knew the curriculum needed radical change. The academic courses were not meeting the needs of the school's high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She set about creating partnerships with local businesses and was well placed to bring in the new work-related curriculum for 14- to 16-year-olds in 2004.

"Children need more relevance to their studies," she said. "Many of ours have low expectations and they need to be directed to the workforce. We have developed our curriculum so that it's hands-on and has a work-related focus."

Mrs Smith's success is now being replicated across the country as schools provide higher quality work-related key srage 4 learning.

Teaching and learning on the new work-related courses improved significantly during a two-year Ofsted study, published today. By the end, two-thirds of the lessons were good or better.

However, a significant minority of schools were not even providing such lessons. In 20 per cent of schools, the opportunities for work-related learning, which included vocational courses and work experience, were inadequate.

Miriam Rosen, Ofsted's director of education, said that offering a more diverse range of qualifications helped motivate pupils. "Some schools remain reluctant to expand the range of qualifications they offer, while others are not making vocational options available to all and they must broaden their curriculum," she said.

Some schools were worried that Ofsted's inspection regime would judge them harshly if they broadened their curriculum at the expense of improving their GCSE 'points' scores, inspectors said. Schools also tended to concentrate on higher level courses post-16. Demand for level 1 and 2 courses post 16 and for 14-19 diplomas far outstripped supply, they said.

* The Key Stage 4 Curriculum: increased flexibility. www.ofsted.gov.uk

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