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Sharper edge to learning

THE Government believes that a coherent set of policies for the early years is being developed, linking education with child care and support for parents. The most effective way to ensure that available places meet parents' needs would be to place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide such places "whether at their own hand or by working in partnership with other providers".

In ensuring a smooth transition from pre-school to primary, the roles of early intervention, classroom assistants and a framework of qualifications for staff in early years education and child care are all stressed.

In primary and secondary, the Government's proposals are based on shortcomings exposed in surveys on reading and numeracy, weaknesses in the S1 and S2 curriculum, and worries over performance in areas such as science and modern languages. Primary teachers' skills in science teaching are singled out for improvement.

HMI's recent report on standards and quality is cited for showing a "dip" in the quality of teaching and learning in S1 and S2. Among the proposals are closer working between secondary and primary teachers as children approach transition to S1 and the development of a statement of achievement, which would summarise where all pupils are at the end of S2.

The present system of 5-14 assessment is said not provide a consistent or reliable basis of measurement. In the search for a model which appropriately challenges children, which parents understand and have confidence in and which helps teachers to know how effectively they are "adding value", the Inspectorate will present a range of options for a national system of assessment and testing.

Throughout their school career pupils will have personal learning plans, a statement of achievement and a progress file. Personal learning plans will set out for each child a programme founded first on baseline assessment and then targets regularly reviewed and updated. As pupils become older, they will take more responsibility for their direction.

Access by teachers, parents and pupils will be made immediate through information and communications technology, with suitable safeguards on confidentiality. Learning plans will initially be piloted in the new community schools for which education authorities are being invited to bid.

The progress file, available to schools from this autumn, will replace the national record of achievement and will help pupils to set goals, record qualifications and awards, and plan their careers.

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