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Wales hopes to lead the way

Landmark changes are widely expected in Welsh education in the new year, leading the way where many in England hope to follow.

In particular, English educationists will be studying recommendations made by the Welsh Assembly taskforce in its review of testing at key stages 2 and 3.

When it presents its findings in the spring, the taskforce is expected to suggest abolishing tests for 11-year-olds in favour of teacher assessment.

Many in England will also be watching the progress of the first cohort of pupils taking the new Welsh Baccalaureate qualification, as they sit AS-levels in the summer.

Meanwhile, preparations will continue for the proposed reshaping of the entire 14-19 curriculum, with greater emphasis on flexibility and pupil choice.

And plans for the new, play-based foundation stage will be piloted from September. Also in September, the Assembly will start to implement its pledge to provide free in-school breakfasts for every primary school pupil, piloting the programme in deprived areas.

Jane Davidson, Assembly minister for education and lifelong learning, will be taking forward her plans to develop schools as community resources. But teachers are increasingly concerned that the Assembly will not provide sufficient funding for these measures. They also fear that continuing funding shortages will harm Welsh-medium schools, as Welsh-speakers are lured to better-paid jobs outside the profession.

In an attempt to prevent this, Ms Davidson will pilot a scheme later this year which will offer financial incentives and language-learning sabbaticals for teachers who are considering a transfer to Welsh-medium schools.

This, she believes, will help to ensure that an extra 5 per cent of the population is able to speak Welsh by 2011.

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