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A step forward;Leading Article;Opinion;News and opinion

THE NEW curriculum document may not be the radical slim-down so many teachers hoped for, but it still represents a real step forward. It aims to clarify the purpose of the whole curriculum and -- particularly with the advent of citizenship -- focus more effectively on how young people should be prepared for adult life.

In a subject-centred system, this holistic approach is never going to be easy, especially at secondary level. The structure of many secondaries, based on strong subject departments headed by competing or even warring leaders, can make focusing on the overall curriculum exceptionally difficult.

The emphasis, increasingly, is on the needs of pupils. The shift towards more flexibility at key stage 4, where the full curriculum can be "disapplied" for individual students, is very welcome. But we still need a well-thought-out basic entitlement for the years between 14 and 18, combined with a wide range of options (including training and work experience) catering for the interests and ambitions of individuals. Human beings are in many ways the same, but also infinitely various. Cliche this may be, but our school curriculum has not yet fully got to grips with it.

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