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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2007, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Curriculum to be 'more flexible'
Classroom scene
There is supposed to be more time for individual teaching
England's secondary curriculum is being overhauled to give teachers more flexibility in the classroom whilst focusing on the basics, ministers say.

A quarter of the school day is to be freed up so that teachers can focus more on individual students' needs.

But more subjects like personal finance and cookery are set to be included - plus languages like Mandarin and Urdu.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls pledged to enhance teaching of "the three Rs" and said there would be "no dumbing down".

There will be an even stronger focus on traditional subjects
Ed Balls
Schools Secretary

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the changes would allow teachers to focus on pupils struggling with maths and English, and giving others "extra challenges to motivate and enthuse them".

And more topical issues relevant to youngsters' everyday lives would be introduced.

But Mr Balls stressed that there would also be a focus on "the three Rs".

Employers have been complaining that many youngsters lack basic skills.

"By cutting duplication and clutter in the curriculum, teachers will have more time to concentrate on what is vital," said Mr Balls.

"As well as a good grasp of grammar, spelling and arithmetic we need school leavers to be confident individuals with a dynamic can-do attitude - as a nation we cannot afford to let teenagers fall by the wayside.

"There will be an even stronger focus on traditional subjects too and we will protect the classics.

This is much greater freedom - but with certain clear things prescribed
Ken Boston, QCA

"Youngsters will continue to study the likes of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wordsworth, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Dickens."

Chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority Dr Ken Boston insisted the changes were about adapting to the needs of the 21st century.

"It has always been the role of schools to respond to the needs of the time.

"We've stripped it (the curriculum) down so that there's flexibility, more capacity for personalised learning, more capacity to drive up performance for individual schools and the nation, with teachers shaping it in classrooms.

"This is not meddling, this is much greater freedom - but with certain clear things prescribed."

'More meddling'

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Steve Sinnott said: "If teachers feel that they have far greater flexibility and creativity in teaching the curriculum then all young people will benefit".

Tory education spokesman Michael Gove welcomed greater flexibility in principle but stressed that choices should be meaningful with adequate levels of properly trained teachers to provide them.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman David Laws said schools wanted more freedom and flexibility to concentrate on the basics but what they were getting was more meddling from ministers.

Educationalist Professor Stephen Heppell said he hoped the changes would allow schools to integrate teaching, so topics like climate which overlap different subject areas are taught in an co-ordinated manner.

He added: "Schools need the space to borrow great ideas from around the world".

Anne Kiem of the IFS School of Finance acknowledged that introducing lessons in managing personal spending would involve extra training for teachers, but said such classes would have huge benefits for children.

She said: "We're not talking about high finance - it's things like how do you open a bank account, how do you pay a cheque".




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Pupils give their views on the plans



SEE ALSO
Meera Syal joins the set text set
05 Feb 07 |  Education
Plans for Mandarin school lessons
04 Feb 07 |  Education
Anger over cookery classes move
02 Feb 07 |  Education
New curriculum: exciting learning
05 Feb 07 |  Education
How will flexible curriculum work?
05 Feb 07 |  Education

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