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Welsh education minister Peter Hain has asked the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales (AC...
Welsh education minister Peter Hain has asked the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales (ACCAC) to advise him on a range of options for slimming down the National Curriculum within primary schools in Wales. This initiative is part of the government's drive to improve standards of literacy and numeracy for which an extra£1.5m is being made available to schools in Wales this year. This parallels an announcement being made today by education and employment secretary David Blunkett.

During his visit to Bryn Bach Primary School, Tredegar, Mr Hain said:

'There is widespread support among teachers and parents for the government's determination to improve the key skills of literacy and numeracy. The responses to our 'Building Excellent Schools Together' White Paper confirm this and indicate that we are on the right track in relation to setting high standards.

'The responses also indicate that teachers in particular are concerned about overload within the curriculum taught in primary schools. I am bound to listen very carefully when teachers tell me that there may be tensions in the system which could work against the achievement of aims to which we are all committed, particularly those relating to the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

'I have, therefore, commissioned ACCAC to provide the secretary of state with urgent advice on the precise nature of this overload and for recommendations for dealing with it in a way which reflects the distinctive characteristics of the curriculum in Wales. I expect ACCAC to propose a range of options on which we will be able to take urgent decisions. These will include the possibility of slimming Curriculum Orders in Wales and the option of suspending certain Curriculum Orders from September 1998 as is proposed in England. In the Welsh context this might involve concentrating on a core of English, Welsh, science, maths and information technology.

'The action I am proposing varies from that being taken in England because of the different composition of the curriculum in Wales. Before we decide on the best way forward, the position of Welsh and more generally of the Curriculum Cymreig, must be weighed along with our broader objectives to ensure rigorous standards of teaching and learning together with sound subject progression to Key Stage 3 and still better results at Key Stage 4. I am also anxious to have the opportunity to learn from teachers and educationalists what is best for Wales.

'We in Wales can take great heart from the progress which schools are making towards the literacy and numeracy targets as evidenced by the results of Key Stage 2 assessments for 1997 which showed that around 65% of 11year olds achieved the expected levels in English and maths. Clearly, the support of parents, Governors and local education authorities will have played its part in this success but it is schools themselves that are making the real strides up the ladder towards attainment of the goalswe have set. I want to build on this success and I remain committed to working in partnership with teachers in particular as we do so.

'However, I do not assume that a reduction in overload, where it exists, would of itself result in a better use of available classroom time. So with that in mind, I have asked Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools in Wales to provide further guidance to deal with this point. We will also, over the next few months, develop further support material for teachers which reflects our particular Welsh circumstances and which is aimed at improving standards of literacy and numeracy in both English and Welsh. We will also be issuing guidance to LEAs derived from best practice within Wales and the rest of the UK on the development of literacy strategies for which the secretary of state announced before Christmas that we are making an extra£1.5 million available this coming year'.

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