Curriculum 2000 battles against the clock;Further Education
Guidelines for the radical shake-up of A-level and other post-16 courses have only just been sent to schools and sixth-form colleges by the Department for Education and Employment.
Heads of schools and sixth-form colleges say they have had to fill the gap by trying to advise parents and students what choices will be available next year.
Alan Jenkins, principal of Varndean sixth-form college in Brighton, says: "The recent guidelines were too little too late. In the absence of anything official, we briefed school staff and parents ourselves.
"Curriculum 2000 for us could mean a 25 per cent increase in resources needed but as we don't know what the new curriculum specifications are, we can't plan accommodation or staff-student ratios. We could well be looking at a shortage of teachers, especially in IT, in February."
Dan Taubman of the lecturers' union NATFHE, says the big fear is that there will be a repeat of the disaster with general national vocational qualifications when the course specifications did not arrive until teaching had already begun.
"There is widespread concern about the timescale for the curriculum implementation. There is also fear among heads that there will be a backlash against the workload by teachers and in turn the Government takes fright over something which we all support. It is essential that we get this right or we will be living with the disaster for years."
The examining body Edexcel says it is confident that the January deadlines for the new A and AS-level specifications will be met, added to which they have spent a huge amount of time briefing teachers about the changes.
But Judith Norrington, director of curriculum and quality at the Association of Colleges, says that the lack of information about syllabuses will have huge institutional knock-on effects.
Another major concern for all the bodies involved is that university admissions officers have not given any response to these curriculum changes and students are worried about being offered places.
FE unions say they are worried that without any serious higher education response to the introduction of key skills and AS-levels, teachers are even less sure of what to advise students.