Sick of school? Try work...

10th July 1998 at 01:00
From September, older pupils will be free to spend less time in school and more time in the workplace - under certain strict conditions. The aim is to help disaffected students. This is a condensed version of the official guidance on devising a more work-related curriculum.

Background THESECRETARY of State for Education and Employment has decided to use powers available to him to allow schools to drop or alter parts of the national curriculum at key stage 4.

This will give schools more scope to use work-related learning opportunities to motivate pupils and encourage them to learn, and to offer courses that are not compatible with existing statutory requirements. It will come into effect from next month.

Provided a school has workable plans and structures in place to meet these criteria, it may drop up to two of the following national curriculum subjects: modern foreign languages, design and technology and science.

All pupils must continue to study national curriculum English, mathematics, information technology and physical education.Schools must continue to provide religious education, sex education and careers education and guidance for all pupils.

What are the potential benefits?

propriate work-related opportunities at key stage 4 could:

* enthuse pupils and help them to relate to the world of work; * help pupils understand the relevance of their studies; * enhance employability.

What work-related earning opportunities can schools offer pupils?

* opportunities through the school curriculum (for example by adding GNVQ studies); * through courses provided by FE colleges, local training providers or community groups; * work placements; * a combination of the above.

The target groupThe relaxation of the national curriculum is for individual pupils whose achievement is being constrained by current arrangements. It may provide opportunities for pupils who are in danger of becoming disaffected, have not enjoyed much success at school or have ceased to believe in themselves.

It is an opportunity that should be open to all pupils who want, and would benefit from, a distinctive focus on work-related learning. Discussion on an individual basis and the involvement of the pupil in decision making will be critical to success.

Work-related learningprogramme 1. Careers interview Interview arrangements should be made in association with the careers service and pupils who may want to take advantage of the wider opportunities for work-related learning should have an interview. Close collaboration between the careers service and the school will be needed. Parents should be encouraged to attend the careers interview.

The opportunities offered should build on pupils' abilities and aspirations. It should be made clear that attendance, progress and achievement will be monitored and that regular feedback will be provided. Parental supervision and support will be desirable.

2. Curriculum plan Following the careers interview, a structured curriculum plan should be produced with clear objectives, targets and a timescale. The in-school and out-of-school programme must make a coherent sustainable curriculum experience and matters must be kept under review to ensure that this continues to be the case.

Schools will need to consider how to maintain breadth and balance. While pupils may not be following the statutory programme of study for science, design and technology or a modern foreign language, many schools will want to promote aspects of these subjects through new and stimulating contexts for learning. For example, pupils may study GNVQ or NVQ units that have considerable scientific and technological content.

For most schools, the start of key stage 4 will present an ideal opportunity to implement the programme. In some cases, a wider focus on work-related learning may be deemed appropriate later during the key stage.

3. Induction programme This should involve:

* visits by the pupil to the college for work placement; * meeting of the pupil with contact person and mentor to discusscurriculum plans; * briefing for the pupil on health and safety issues; * making his or her responsibilities clear; * work to develop basic skills and independence.

4. Putting plans into practice Pupils will benefit from regular briefing and debriefing and it may be necessary to modify some pupils' curriculum plans. Careful thought will need to be given if things do not work out, or if the programme has been successful and the pupil would benefit from the full statutory curriculum once again.

Teachers will need to visit colleges or workplaces to monitor pupils' progress and a systematic approach to the evaluation of evidence and recording of achievement will be required. Achievement will be recorded in a pupil's progress file.

Monitoring The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will monitor the initiative nationally. Schools will be required to inform QCA of their proposal to relax aspects of the curriculum and, when requested, to contribute to national monitoring arrangements. This will inform the review of the national curriculum.

Briefing Document of the Week 21 TESJjuly 10J1998

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