Come clean on GCSE short course

13th October 1995 at 01:00
I find it unfortunate that the Curriculum Update (TES, September 29) simply ignored the most pressing curriculum issue now facing secondary schools as they look forward to the introduction of the Dearing key stage 4 next September.

I refer to the complete lack of information from both the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the Department for Education and Employment on the status of the GCSE (short course). Since these are to form the irreducible compulsory minimum in both modern languages and technology, but are now suddenly also to be available in almost every other none-core subject, clarity about their value to both the pupils and the school is surely a prerequisite for any curriculum planning to take place.

Despite several months communication with the DFEE and SCAA I have still been unable to ascertain whether a GCSE (short course) is intended to be half a GCSE. Will two short courses make one full GCSE for the pupils? Will two short courses make one GCSE in calculations for school league tables? The only answers I have been able to get from the DFEE are that "decisions will be made by ministers in good time for the publication of the 1997 school performance tables".

Are schools around the country really taking vital decision on the structure of their future key stage 4 curriculum, and therefore their staffing, without this essential information?

Are schools simply ignoring the new key stage 4 so many did with compulsory technology in 1993? Are they ignoring the short-course option completely - no doubt to be berated in the future for not taking advantage of the flexibility so imaginatively created by Sir Ron Dearing?

Until the DFEE comes clean - or makes up its mind - about the status of these new qualifications the new key stage 4 will remain a figment of its imagination. In the meantime, for the umpteenth time, the emperor will remain unclothed.

A TOUBKIN Deputy headteacher Heysham High School Limes Avenue Morecambe Lancashire

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