Axe hovers over academic courses

19th February 2010 at 00:00
Education minister reveals `radical solutions' in 14-19 learning overhaul that could lead to more vocational options

Some academic courses could be axed to make way for more vocational options as part of the overhaul of 14-19 education, TES Cymru has learnt.

Leighton Andrews, the education minister, said "radical solutions" will have to be considered to achieve parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications.

Speaking at a conference in Cardiff, the minister told delegates they would be hearing more about "the language of priorities" as the `Learning Pathways' policy is implemented.

"I think we are seeing evidence already that people are starting to understand the balance between vocational and academic routes," he said.

"Both are important. All learners need to access an appropriate choice at all levels. Moving forward will mean more radical solutions will have to be put into place.

"We may have to narrow the range of academic choices if we are to expand the range of vocational choices."

However, the suggestion that academic courses could be cut was criticised by heads and teaching unions.

Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, said it would do a "disservice" to A-level candidates who want a "traditional diet" of academic subjects.

"It's not for the government to interfere with the academic aspirations of those young people," he said.

"This really represents the narrowing view of education we have seen by civil servants and ministers that the purpose of education is to prepare young people for employment and improve the economy."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said: "This gives me cause for concern. Surely a better way forward would be to increase vocational options per se, not at the cost of academic courses?

"We can't narrow one area of the curriculum to favour another. It's a retrograde move."

By 2012 all Year 10 students will be able to choose their courses from a local curriculum containing a minimum of 30 subject choices.

The Assembly government has not prescribed the subjects that will be offered, but at least five vocational choices and the five national curriculum subjects (English, Welsh or Welsh second language, mathematics, science and physical education) must be made available.

Schools and colleges are being encouraged to collaborate to offer a wider menu of choice for learners.

A government spokesman said: "This (the changes) may result in the range of academic courses being offered within the local curricula being reduced over time, while the number of vocational options available to learners may increase.

"Such a strategic shift will better meet the needs of a greater number of learners and ensure that they are better equipped to meet the demands of a strong, enterprising and vibrant economy based upon quality employment."

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