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Teach them to be Welsh

TES national curriculum survey throws up keen drive for stronger national identity

what it means to be Welsh should be taught in schools according to a TES poll, which also found that two-thirds of teachers in England and Wales believe the national curriculum is too restrictive.

A third believe it has a negative effect on behaviour and more than half want more say in what they teach. One in 10 wants the national curriculum to be scrapped.

Since its introduction in 1988, the national curriculum has grown to cover a dozen compulsory subjects at ages 11 to 14 in England, but only EnglishWelsh, maths and science are required in Wales.

Despite this, Welsh teachers were more likely than their English peers to say the curriculum is too prescriptive, although the numbers surveyed were not representative (67 out of 600).

The curriculum in Wales is due to change in 2008 and is expected to become more skills-based.

A patriotic 68 per cent of all teachers and heads believed students should learn what it means to be British. But in Wales, 94 per cent feel pupils should learn what it means to be Welsh - and that this is more important than teaching Britishness, John Osmond, director of the Cardiff-based think-tank the Institute of Welsh Affairs, suggested that Welshness, historically associated with language, culture, history and geography, is now developing a "political and civic dimension" through association with newer institutions such as the National Assembly and S4C.

"Schools have a responsibility to engage with those ideas," he said.

"That's why teachers say the idea of Welshness needs attention."

The right to decide what to teach also includes the right to teach intelligent design in science lessons, according to 66 per cent of those polled.

This week the Department for Education and Skills in London warned English schools against using pro-creationist material from the Christian group Truth in Science.

Peter Edmead, head of science at Hampton community college, in south London, said: "I'm no creationist but you could argue that it's better to teach the topic in science than in RE, because you can put the counter-arguments."

More than 40 per cent of teachers believe a foreign language should be compulsory at GCSE. Languages have never been compulsory post-14 in Wales, and entries have slumped to fewer than half in England since they became optional there in 2004.

But a significant number want religious education and citizenship to be dropped at the same age. And in primary education, 28 per cent of teachers want to start formal lessons at age six. This will happen in Wales with the national roll-out of the play-based foundation phase from 2008.

Curriculum survey, pages 14-15

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