'Dangerous' pathways get the green light

20th March 2009 at 00:00

The radical shake-up of 14-19 education in Wales got the go-ahead this week, but opposition politicians were left furious after all their amendments were defeated.

The controversial learning and skills measure was passed after a four-hour Assembly debate on Tuesday. It will now be sent for royal approval before becoming law.

Under the vocationally led pathways curriculum, secondary schools and colleges must work together to provide a wider choice of courses from September.

But throughout the process, schools and college leaders and teachers' unions were concerned about some elements of the measure and pressed the government to make changes.

John Griffiths, the skills minister, told Assembly members that his amendments to widen the availability of Welsh-medium courses and introduce a maximum number of courses would "strengthen the measure". But Conservative and Liberal Democrat AMs said setting a maximum was too restrictive.

One by one, each opposition amendment was voted down by Labour and Plaid Cymru members, who said they were "unnecessary" or "inappropriate", even though many were suggested by the committee that scrutinised the measure.

Paul Davies, the Tory shadow education minister, had wanted the measure to give colleges guidance on ensuring the safety of under-16s on their premises. But he was left "gobsmacked" after Mr Griffiths said teachers would be responsible for pupils' safety while they were at further education institutions.

Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, said this would work only if teachers accompanied their pupils all day.

Mr Davies had also hoped to win free transport between institutions for pupils on the pathways, warning that poor families in rural areas would suffer. But Mr Griffiths said video link-ups would cut back on journeys, and teachers and lecturers would do some of the travelling.

Mr Griffiths said other proposed amendments on exclusions, basic skills and additional learning needs were dealt with by existing strategies and regulations.

Ms Randerson said the measure would be left "unworkable and dangerous" without the amendments.

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