Post-14 curriculum revamp aims for challenges and fun. Nicola Porter reports
Learning opportunities for young people presently lack excitement, challenge, risk-taking, creativity and fun, according to new guidance on the future of 14-19 learning in Wales.
Christine Chapman, the Assembly government's deputy minister for education and finance, launched her Learning Pathways for 14-19 report earlier this week.
In it, she calls for a revamp of the school curriculum in tune with the Assembly government's vision of vocationally-led learning. She also throws her support behind the Welsh baccalaureate, saying more should be done to flag it up to colleges and universities outside Wales.
The report clearly maps out the future of 14-19 education, with an emphasis on involving pupils of all abilities in vocationally-led training.
A task force will also be created to look at the development of vocational qualifications in line with skills required in the business sector, such as modern foreign languages.
Other plans include extending opportunities for quality work-based placements, the phasing in of more learning coaches and initiatives to make the workplace appear more exciting.
Speaking at the launch, Ms Chapman said: "The guidance sets out an ambitious and radical agenda which brings together a framework of six key elements, including learning and support tailored to individual needs."
However, she later said the curriculum would have to be given a brand new image to complement it. "There is a need to ensure key stage 3 in secondary schools focuses on the needs of learners, and in particular on skills development."
Ms Chapman said funding mechanisms also needed to be in place to continue to support strategic partnership approaches when grant funding was mainstreamed, probably in 2010.
Peter Black, Liberal Democrat chair of the education and lifelong learning committee, welcomed the report for establishing more effective links with employers. However, he said concerns raised by inspection agency Estyn about the quality of work-based learning needed to be addressed.
There are also concerns that there will not be enough money to fund new learning coaches posts - and the role could fall on hard-pressed form tutors.
The training of 220 learning coaches for 14 to 19-year-olds, funded by European money, begins soon. European Social Fund money will pay for training up to June 2007 but not for extra personnel.
Brian Rowlands, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, questions the need for extra learning coaches above the present number.
He said: "Employing an extra person could cost pound;20,000 - a real burden on the school budget. Unless extra money is forthcoming we can't see how it would work.
"Training would also incur costs, such as the burden of having to find supply cover."
Ms Chapman gathered her evidence after visiting 22 learning pathway networks already set up across Wales.
The report will now be put out for consultation before an action plan is finalised.