Education: Lure to learning for reluctant pupils

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A new scheme to help interest children who dislike school by showing them the value of further education is being drawn up by the Government's curriculum advisers.

Schools are to be consulted on whether to let some 14- to 16-year-olds spend up to one day a week on placements in industry or at further education colleges studying vocational qualifications. Officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) said that they hoped the scheme would help a minority of teenagers who hated lessons but could see the value of learning if it was related to work. Children who regularly truanted or were disruptive would be particularly targeted.

Under the proposals, pupils would be able to opt out of up to two of three national curriculum subjects - a modern foreign language, design technology and science. They would still have to study English and maths.

Officials at the QCA denied that the scheme would be a reward for those youngsters who did not work at school, or that it could lead to a two- tier system with low achievers not being entered for their GCSEs. The initiative was meant to encourage working for foundation or vocational qualifications as a basis for further studies.

The scheme follows an announcement earlier this month by the Secretary of State for Education, David Blunkett, of alterations to the national curriculum in primary schools allowing children to spend an hour a day studying English and maths by reducing the time spent on other subjects.

Dr Nick Tate, chief executive of the of QCA, said of the work-related learning scheme: "This measure is for where the traditional curriculum just is not switching pupils on to learning."

Officials at the authority believe companies will take part in the scheme because of the success of a schools' pilot in National Vocational Qualifications where businesses were involved with schools in practical subjects such as manufacturing and leisure and tourism. They believe children could also improve their chances of finding work when they leave school by getting a chance to show employers how they perform in a working environment.