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Three stages of schooling

Brian Boyd, scourge of setting and streaming supporters, has gone a radical step further and suggested that full-time compulsory education should end at the age of 14.

Universities could also become comprehensive and dispense with formal entrance qualifications, Professor Boyd said when he delivered the annual education lecture at Strathclyde University yesterday.

Schools should be organised around three distinct stages, he proposed, beginning with centres for three to seven-year-olds. The emphasis would be on creativity, the arts, performance, co-operative learning, working with others, and citizenship. Reading, writing and maths would be part of the ongoing activities.

His next stage would be from eight to 14, and would see the onset of specialisation but with a heavy emphasis on cross-stage learning groups led by teams of teachers and others. The public performance of learning in real situations would be the driving force.

"Classrooms would not be the basic unit, learning slots would not be determined by timetablers thirled to examinations, and bells would cease to be the dominant symbol of the institution," he said.

There would be choice of how to learn, where to learn and with whom to learn. The curriculum would be flexible, the organising framework being the four purposes of A Curriculum for Excellence.

His final stage would be from age 15 onwards. The opportunities for a range of pathways would be provided by the full gamut of those with a stake in education: "If industry wants problem-solvers, team-players, free-thinkers, completer-finishers and adaptable learners, then it needs to engage actively with the system."

If everyone had an entitlement to 15 years of free education, with an additional four years when fees would be paid for higher education, individuals could be flexible about when they took up their entitlement, he suggested.

It might be that the first 10 years should be compulsory between the ages of four and 14; thereafter, for the next four years, there might be some contact with education - although not necessarily full-time and not necessarily in school.

No single examination structure would dominate and there would be many ways of achieving recognition, not least internationally.

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