Policies fail to provide maximum opportunities

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Middle East offers record of pedigree and integrity The editorial about the GCSE statistics referred to the "growing conviction" that both the national curriculum and the GCSE were inappropriate for a sizeable minority of pupils.

If the revised national curriculum is still inappropriate to respond to the educational needs of all children, then the curriculum must be changed so that it is more flexible. A national curriculum is not a national curriculum if by its nature it excludes a significant proportion of the nation's children.

Similarly, the GCSE was created to provide a common school-leaving certificate for all, replacing the GCE O-level and the CSE. Traditional subject syllabuses alongside school-designed and externally moderated courses involving formal examinations and continuous assessment were to be the features by which all pupils could demonstrate their various achievements at the end of their statutory education. The recent insistence by the Government on less flexible approaches to course content and assessment methods, together with an emphasis on five A* to C grades as a measure of a school's effectiveness, is destroying the central aim of the GCSE as a common certificate of secondary education for all pupils.

However, due to disapplication from the national curriculum and certificates of simple work-related training this "sizeable minority" of children who are mainly boys and some with behaviour difficulties is likely to lead to burgeoning provision in sink teaching groups and segregated settings. The setting and streaming of children according to their achievements is growing in acceptability.

Pupils, whose difficulties have been created by the inappropriateness of what they are expected to learn and the way they are required to demonstrate what they have learnt, taught a narrow curriculum not linked to their experiences, capacities and interest, will respond appropriately and often aggressively to the low expectations which the system has assigned to them.

Clearly, a significant proportion of pupils in our secondary schools are being pushed to the margins of educational entitlement. All children are not being valued equally. Current educational policy and practices do not seek to provide maximum opportunities for all children.

DR ROBIN C RICHMOND Registered inspector and educational consultant Manda Villa Lower Broadheath, Nr Worcester

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