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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 12:27 GMT
Outcry over plans to drop languages
exam hall
School diplomas for all?
Children could stop studying foreign languages and science at the age of 14 under proposals for a shake-up of the curriculum for older secondary school pupils in England.

Ideas to be presented in a Green Paper next week are expected to signal the biggest shift in secondary schools for a decade.

It is thought the number of subjects children have to study will be cut dramatically to include just core subjects such as maths, English and information technology.

The changes might allow children to drop subjects such as modern languages and science, and take on more work-related courses.

Division

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, attacked the proposals to take languages off the list of compulsory subjects.

He said: "Young people should take modern languages to as high a level as possible in order to open up the vast range of job opportunities that exist for them at all levels in Europe and elsewhere."

And Mr Dunford said it was also important for teenagers to study science.

"We welcome greater flexibility in the curriculum at Key Stage four but this must not be at the expense of breadth."

However, the other main union for head teachers - the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) - said if there was to be a small core of subjects, the list should be as short as possible and be made up of English, maths and information technology.

The general secretary of the NAHT David Hart said: "I believe that schools can be left to exercise their own judgement on how to deliver the curriculum.

"It's time the government trusted the professional judgement of heads and their staff without fettering them."

Baccalaureate

The plans for 16 to 19-year-olds are expected to include the introduction of an English version of the baccalaureate - where pupils can study a wider variety of subjects.

It is thought there will be three levels of attainment in this over-arching qualification.

The foundation stage would recognise the achievement of children who study a range of GCSEs and vocational subjects, while children who go on to study AS-levels and A-levels would receive a higher qualification.

Government sources say the idea behind the shake-up is to "extend excellence".

The shift reflects the belief held by many educationalists that the GCSE is becoming less relevant, as more and more teenagers choose to stay at school after 16.

By increasing the importance of vocational qualification, ministers also hope to encourage more children to stay in education past 16.

Officially, the Department for Education is saying reports about what will be in Tuesday's Green Paper are "pure speculation".

See also:

26 Jun 01 | Education
New certificate for school leavers
19 Nov 01 | Education
Early GCSEs 'not only answer'
17 May 01 | Education
Heads call for abolition of GCSEs
05 Jun 01 | Education
Goodbye GCSEs?
22 Aug 01 | Education
GCSEs fading in importance?
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