Crossroads for 14 to 19 learning

5th December 2008 at 00:00

Schools and colleges are on a collision course over the skills-led learning and skills measure (page 1).

This week, another Assembly committee report cast doubt over the timing of a new law forcing the two sectors to comply in delivering the 14-19 learning pathways by next September.

So is the Assembly government guilty of unreasonable behaviour? Members of the Assembly's learning and enterprise committee believe so.

But the report also suggests changes that will transform teaching and learning in Welsh classrooms beyond all recognition. Teachers, not pupils, should travel to deliver subject options in some cases, it seems to suggest.

The committee also urges the use of mobile classrooms, or even video-conferencing, to slow down pupil traffic between educational institutions.

All this is a dramatic departure from six years ago when the learning pathways were first unleashed by the government - the idea being that teenage pupils would travel to another school or the local further education college to complete the course of their choice.

But there are other hidden barriers to collaboration, apart from funding, language, and possibly faith. According to a survey by heads' union ASCL Cymru, huge variations in staffing, transport costs and course fees across Wales have not been considered and will create deep divisions in the delivery of the pathways policy.

According to the research, launched at their annual conference today, per-pupil tuition fees vary across Wales from Pounds 44 to Pounds 840, and transport costs anything up to Pounds 360 per pupil per year.

It is admirable that pupil choice is at the centre of this well-meaning strategy, aimed at engaging the disengaged and preventing people from dropping out of school. But the impact on teachers, parents and pupils will be huge, and more consideration is needed about the finer detail.

Time is running out for the learning and skills measure - it needs Royal Assent by April. Many in the teaching profession would welcome its delay for at least a year - at best three.

It seems this unpopular new law is at a crossroads and school opponents have won the first bout over the FE sector.

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