Headlines: March 24th, 2003

A government scheme designed to widen the range of subjects studied by sixth-form and college students has failed to make any real impact. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools says it has delivered “at best modest” results for students.The Office for Standards in Education has been looking into the implementation of the flagship project, Curriculum 2000, which aimed to broaden post-16 study and found it has had only marginal impact on the curriculum of individual students. The Chief Inspector, David Bell, said there was still too rigid a division between the academic world and the world of work.

He said that in spite of the added burden Curriculum 2000 had placed on schools and colleges it had achieved much less than had been intended. The range of subjects being studied by students after 16 had not broadened significantly and in some subjects the scope of teaching had narrowed as staff had concentrated on course specifications. Mr. Bell said it was inevitable that most attention had been focused on getting new arrangements in place and now that had been done further consideration could be given – and needed to be given – to the underlying weaknesses that Curriculum 2000 was designed to address.

But Ofsted said inspite of the initial difficulties experienced by schools and colleges with the implementation of the scheme, the quality of teaching at more than 100 schools visited during the survey was always expert, well planned and enthusiastic. The report found that standards of achievement in the schools and colleges which had been inspected remained high and in most respects had risen over the two years of the inspection.

Inspectors identified a number of areas in need of further action including improving the development of study skills across subject areas, the quality and consistency of target setting, students’ knowledge of training and employment opportunities and encouraging students to mix and match their qualifications by including contrasting   subjects in their programmes.

Mr Bell added, “There remains an excessively rigid division between the academic world and the world of work. Students in schools are much less well informed about training and employment routes than they are about academic and vocational options in schools and colleges. As a result they make their choice of pathway post-16 without a clear map of all the routes available.”