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John Simkin

Tomlinson Report

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From what I have gleaned about the report I think that it is a very good set of ideas in principle. I like the vocational / academic cross, which is particularly apt for some of the students that I teach. I also like the reduction in the coursework as that is more of a nightmare year on year. I haven't taught A Level since 2000 and so missed out all the changes introduced in that year and probably won't be teaching it for a couple more years so possibly there will be some clearer idea of the changes there. I think the biggest concern is whether this will actually be implemented in the way in which Tomlinson suggests. I very much doubt this will happen. There is too much conservatism in the education system especially where the A Levels are concerned, whilst at the same time an almost irresistable temptation to 'tinker'. It is a shame that this report wasn't written a few years ago when either the GCSE / AS was introduced which would have saved schools alot of change. I already know a couple of students who have started an international baccalaureate in a sixth form college, it will be interesting to see how they get on.

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Can anyone give me a link to the Report on Secondary Education from Scotland which I think was due to be published this week?

Secondly, can anyone put me in touch with someone who has a good knowledge of the Scottish education system, please?

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I am proud that my first White Paper as Secretary of State should be on the issue of education for our 14 to 19 year-olds.

The reforms I set out here are of vital importance. They are vital to our economy ¬ equipping young people with the skills employers need and the ability to go on learning throughout their lives. They are vital for social justice ¬ giving us the chance to break forever the historic link between social background, educational achievement and life chances that have dogged us as a nation. And most of all they are vital to each and every individual young person, whatever their needs and whatever their aspirations.

Executive Summary

1. Our aim is to transform secondary and post-secondary education so that all young people achieve and continue in learning until at least the age of 18.

2. Since 1997, we have carried through far-reaching reforms to raise standards, made possible by substantial new investment in schools and colleges. Primary school standards are at their highest ever level ¬ and in international comparisons, our primary schools match the best anywhere. Results at secondary school are also at their best ever level: in 2004, over 53% of young people achieved 5 or more A*-C grade GCSEs (or equivalent), compared to around 45% in 1997. We have also put in place a range of measures to tackle barriers to learning. Education Maintenance Allowances provide a strong incentive for 16-19 year-olds to stay in education and have a proven track record in increasing participation.

3. But the challenges ahead remain considerable. Numbers staying on post-16 have improved but are still too low ¬ far down the international league table. Many employers are not satisfied with the basic skills of school leavers going directly into jobs. Some young people drift outside education, employment or training between the ages of 16 and 19. The most able young people are not as fully stretched as they could be.

4. We propose therefore a radical reform of the system of 14-19 education ¬ curriculum, assessment and the range of opportunities on offer. The Working Group on 14-19 Reform, chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson, reported in October last year. This White Paper is our response.

5. In it we set out our proposals for an education system focused on high standards and much more tailored to the talents and aspirations of individual young people, with greater flexibility about what and where to study and when to take qualifications. These proposals will:

• tackle our low post-16 participation, we want participation at age 17 to increase from 75% to 90% over the next 10 years;

• ensure that every young person has a sound grounding in the basics of English and maths and the skills they need for employment;

• provide better vocational routes which equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need for further learning and employment;

• stretch all young people; and

• re-engage the disaffected.

A strong foundation at Key Stage 3

6. Our first step is to make sure that Key Stage 3 - 11-14 education - provides a stronger base of knowledge and skills. By the age of 14, we want young people to have achieved higher standards in the basics and to have acquired a sound education - and an enthusiasm for learning - across the curriculum. That will be the platform for the increased choice teenagers will have between the ages of 14 and 19. In order to achieve this, we will:

• retain all of the core and foundation subjects within that phase, but review the curriculum to improve its coherence in subjects where there are problems. We will reduce prescription so that schools have space to help those below the expected level to catch up and to stretch all their pupils;

• support and challenge schools through the Secondary National Strategy and the New Relationship with Schools to use the new flexibility well;

• strengthen the emphasis on English and maths, in particular by expecting schools to focus systematically on those who arrive from primary school without having reached the expected standard in the Key Stage 2 literacy and numeracy tests, continue to publish national test results and introduce a new on-line test of ICT skills;

• introduce models of moderated teacher assessment in the other compulsory subjects, providing professional development for teachers to support their skills in assessing young people, which will help to raise standards across the curriculum; and

• emphasise the importance of achievement at age 14 by recording in a 'Pupil Profile' for each young person and their parents, achievement across the curriculum.

7. By doing so, we will ensure that more young people achieve National Curriculum level 5 in English, maths, science and ICT; and that all young people are stretched to achieve across all subjects.

A strong core 14-19

8. Achieving functional skills in English and maths must be at the heart of the 14-19 phase. These skills are essential to support learning in other subjects and they are essential for employment. Achieving level 2 (GCSE level) in functional English and maths is a vital part of a good education. In order to ensure more young people achieve that grounding:

• we have already reduced the amount of prescription in the Key Stage 4 curriculum, providing more scope for schools to support catch-up in English and maths;

• we are extending the Key Stage 3 Strategy to improve classroom practice, so that it provides support across secondary schools;

• we will expect more teenagers to achieve 5 A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths and we will introduce a general (GCSE) Diploma to recognise those who achieve this standard;

• we will toughen the GCSE Achievement and Attainment Tables, showing what percentage of young people have achieved the Diploma standard ¬ ie 5 A*-C grade GCSEs including English and maths. We expect to phase out the existing 5 A*-C measure by 2008;

• we will ensure that no-one can get a C or better in English and maths without mastering the functional elements. Where a teenager achieves the functional element only, we will recognise that separately; and

• we will provide more opportunities and incentives for teenagers who have not achieved level 2 by 16 to do so post-16 and support them in achieving level 1 or entry level qualifications as steps on the way.

Routes to success for all

9. Building on that core, we will create a system better tailored to the needs of the individual pupil, in which teenagers are stretched to achieve. We will:

• introduce greater choice of what and where to study and make it easier to combine academic and vocational learning;

• retain GCSEs and A levels as cornerstones of the new system;

• introduce new specialised Diplomas, including academic and vocational material, covering each occupational sector of the economy. The Diplomas will be available at levels 1 (foundation), 2 (GCSE) and 3 (advanced);

• require that anyone achieving a Diploma at level 2 must have functional English and maths at level 2;

• put employers in the lead through Sector Skills Councils, in designing specialised Diplomas which provide the right grounding for work and further study, supported by higher education and the QCA; and

• challenge and support schools and colleges to ensure that young people take qualifications when they are ready, not at a fixed age, encouraging acceleration to level 2 and ensuring early achievement at advanced level is recognised in performance tables and elsewhere.

10. We understand and appreciate the argument that we should challenge our A level students further, by demanding more breadth. But there is no clear consensus amongst pupils, parents, employers or universities on whether and how it should be done. We also believe that so soon after the introduction of Curriculum 2000, stability is important. We will therefore work with employers and universities to see if we can identify what, if anything, would add value to existing courses and we will review progress in 2008. By this time we will also have the evidence from the pilots of the extended project and other measures to draw on.

A new system of specialised Diplomas

11. The Diplomas we are proposing will work as follows:

• To achieve a Diploma, young people will need to achieve appropriate standards in English and maths, specialised material, relevant GCSEs and A levels and have work experience.

• We will introduce the Diplomas in 14 lines and make these a national entitlement by 2015. The first four Diplomas in information and communication technology, engineering, health and social care and creative and media will be available in 2008. Eight will be available by 2010.

• We will work with employers to offer more opportunities to young people to learn at work and outside school.

• We will continue to improve the quality and number of employment-based training places through Apprenticeships, bringing them within the Diploma framework.

Strengthening GCSEs and A levels

12. We will keep both GCSEs and A levels, but improve both in those areas where there is a strong case for change. At GCSE we will:

• restructure English and maths GCSEs to make sure it is impossible to get a grade C or above without the ability to use functional English and maths;

• review coursework to reduce the assessment burden;

• continue work to reform maths as proposed by Professor Adrian Smith, improving motivation and progression to advanced level. This is likely to include a new double maths GCSE; and

• continue to promote science ¬ including implementing the new science GCSEs ¬ restating our firm expectation that young people should do two science GCSEs.

13. At A level we will:

• increase stretch for the most able by introducing optional harder questions into separate sections at the end of A level papers;

• introduce an 'extended project' to stretch all young people and test a wider range of higher-level skills;

• enable the most able teenagers to take HE modules while in the sixth form;

• ensure that universities have more information on which to make judgements about candidates by ensuring that they have access to the grades achieved by young people in individual modules by 2006. We will also support those universities who wish to have marks as well as grades; and

• we will reduce the assessment burden at A level by reducing the numbers of assessments in an A level from 6 to 4 but without reducing the standard or changing the overall content of A levels.

14. We will ensure that there are natural progression routes both through the levels of the Diploma and between GCSEs and A levels and the different levels of the Diploma. By doing so, we will secure for all teenagers routes that avoid early narrowing down, but provide real choice of what to learn and in what setting.

15. We believe that the current balance between internal and external assessment is essentially the right one to secure public confidence in the examinations system. We therefore do not propose major change here.

Engaging all young people

16. Our reforms will create opportunities for all young people. For many, the curriculum choices introduced in this White Paper will provide the opportunities they need to develop their talents and so succeed. The vocational opportunities, including different styles and places of learning, will motivate many. Foundation and entry level qualifications will help put more young people onto a pathway that will lead to further opportunities and qualifications.

17. For young people who face serious personal problems, the proposals in the Government's programme, 'Every Child Matters', will be crucial in breaking down the barriers to achievement. In addition, we will develop a pilot programme for 14-16 year-olds, based on the post-16 Entry to Employment programme. This new route will:

• provide a tailored programme for each young person and intensive personal guidance and support;

• involve significant work-based learning, probably amounting to two days each week;

• lead towards a level 1 Diploma; and

• lead on to a range of further options including Apprenticeship.

18. We expect this to be available to up to 10,000 young people from 2007/8.

A system configured around young people

19. We have designed these changes to the curriculum and qualifications to meet the needs of learners and employers. We will ensure that every part of the education system is configured to meet their needs.

20. We will increase the capacity of the education system to offer vocational education. We will do so by building on existing strengths ¬ for example, extending the role of Centres of Vocational Excellence to making excellent vocational provision available for young people. We will also develop new Skills Academies as national centres of excellence in skills. We will strengthen schools' capacity to offer vocational education, through specialism. The best Specialist Schools will be able to become a leading school with additional resources to boost vocational provision. Significantly more post-16 opportunities will be needed to meet the objectives set out in this paper. Both schools and colleges will make additional provision. We will be consulting in detail on our proposals, set out in our 5-year plan, for a presumption in favour of high-performing 11-16 schools engaging in post-16 provision.

21. We will support the workforce to deliver. We will ensure that the right staff are in place, including those who have the necessary experience of the workplace to deliver vocational education, and that they have the professional development, qualifications and support that they need.

22. Schools, colleges and other providers will take the lead in each local area. A prospectus of options will be made available to all young people, setting out what is on offer to them. Where there are any gaps, it will be the responsibility of local authorities and the local Learning and Skills Councils to commission provision to fill them. Each school and college will be expected to make the full range of choices available to young people on its roll, though perhaps at other institutions. Inspection will ensure that this is delivered.

An accountability framework which makes sure that we offer the best to young people

23. Finally, we need an accountability framework which supports and encourages the development of the new 14-19 phase. We will:

• include vocational qualifications in Achievement and Attainment Table measures and ensure that inspections challenge schools to offer the full range of curriculum and qualifications;

• focus on the basics through continuing to publish tables showing performance in English, maths and science at Key Stage 3; and toughening tables at 16 to measure the Diploma standard: 5 A*-C GCSEs including English and maths;

• encourage stretch for all teenagers through giving schools credit in the tables when they achieve success in higher level qualifications. Through the New Relationship with Schools, hold schools more strongly to account for the progress of all their students; and

• encourage institutions to focus on improving staying-on rates by introducing progression targets; and crediting schools for the achievement of young people completing Key Stage 4 later than the normal age.

24. This major package of reform seizes a once-in-a-generation chance to transform 14-19 education and skills. Through doing so, we will seek to widen opportunity for all young people and take the next steps towards a more prosperous and fairer society.

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Some responses to Ruth Kelly's statement yesterday:

What is proposed yet again risks emphasising the distinction between the vocational and the academic. It further fails fully to deal with the needs of students for whom (grade) A*-C at GCSE is simply not attainable.

While the white paper leaves one or two doors open - for example the review of coursework - and introduces a new diploma, I had hoped that the government would have gone further on the need for a unified qualifications framework.

This was a key part of the brief given to the working group, yet the white paper makes little or no direct reference to such a framework. (Mike Tomlinson)

Continuing with the current GCSE and A-level structure carries the risk of continuing the historic divide between academic and vocational courses which has ill-served too many young people in the past. (David Bell, chief inspector of schools)

The limited reforms announced today will do little for those who have hitherto been failed by the qualifications system. Electoral tactics, it seems, have taken precedence over educational logic. (John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association)

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What a lot we pile on to adolescents. Just as they are going through hormonal revolution, trying to understand the weird logic of adult life and struggling with endless exams, we load on to their shoulders many of our wider social anxieties. This week's argument about A-levels isn't just about tests. It is about what kind of country we think we are, and what kind of government Labour really aspires to be.

If you were trying to invent an ideal person to rethink the exam system, you'd come up with Mike Tomlinson, or someone like him. The reverse of trendy, this lanky, bespectacled chemistry graduate from the Midlands was obsessed by links between schools and industry long before it was fashionable. The condition of children snootily ignored by an arts-based, Oxbridge, metropolitan elite has been close to his heart for most of his working life. And as an inspector of schools for 25 years, he knows the history of A-levels and GCSEs inside out.

His report, the culmination of that life's work, did not disappoint. By integrating the vocational and the academic into a single, four-tier diploma system, he would have wiped away old divisions and subtly undermined decades of snobbery. Very different tests would be applied to, on the one hand, brilliant mathematicians or linguists and, on the other, people wanting to be painters or cooks - different levels of the diplomas would be easily recognised by employers, but everyone would be working in the same system, with the ability to move relatively easily from one tier to the next. It sounded practical and modern, helpful to employers, and yet with a strain of decent, progressive idealism.

People who know the issues recognised all this, and liked it. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority greeted Tomlinson as an excellent package and advised the government to bring in the four-tier diplomas without watering them down. The Secondary Heads Association says it would be disappointed if the nub of Tomlinson was rejected.

Polls did suggest teachers were split, though, for such a radical plan, the diplomas had a surprisingly wide level of support. But overall this was about as near as you get to three cheers from the educational establishment.

So then what happened? There was an almost instant response from Tony Blair: come what may, he was going to keep the "gold standard" of A-levels. In which case, you may wonder, why bother to ask Sir Mike Tomlinson to do all that work in the first place? But the prime ministerial language was revealing: gold standards. A-levels represent tradition, nostalgia and a vestigial sense of elitism, despite the irritating habit so many children have today of obtaining three top grades. In Daily Mail England, there's still an aura of prefects, grammar school caps with gold piping and hearty rowing teams about A-levels. They are somehow for the officer class.

The Tories, naturally, think the same way. There is much talk of starred A-levels, and double-starred A-levels. Ruth Kelly doesn't quite use that language, though she wants to stretch A-levels for the brightest, and put in more differentiation, not less.

Certainly, the brightest need to be catered for. There is no reason why there shouldn't be some form of triple-starred platinum A-level with diamonds round the edge for the super-clever. But we're talking very small numbers: even now, with the so-called "dumbed down" A-levels, only 3% of pupils achieve three A grades.

The politics of this is at least easy to understand. Thinking of middle England, naturally conservative and cautious, the government is reacting to concerns of grade inflation and the interests of the brightest children. This is all about reassurance, and speaking familiar language to key groups of voters, who backed Blair in 1997 and 2001 but are now restive.

Yet there is an obvious, glaring problem: where does it leave the rest? The whole point of Tomlinson was to bind every pupil into a seamless system of vocational and academic exams. If the top end is creamed off, what about the millions of children who aren't up for A-levels with cherries on top? Here the reassurances start to sound frantic and unconvincing. There is a deluge of talk about valuing vocational training, ending the vocational/academic division. Everywhere in Ruth Kelly's rhetoric there is the sound of barriers being smashed.

And the sound of ministers protesting too much. If they were really interested in all that, they would have been braver and accepted Tomlinson in full. If the top priority was ending the historic division between people who do things with their hands, who make things you sit on, eat, drive or wear, and people in offices, the answer was in front of them.

It is important not to go over the top: there are good ideas in the Kelly response, and plenty of good intentions. Given what Whitehall knows about the past economic successes of Scandinavia and Germany, where the division was far less harsh than in England, it is unthinkable that more won't be done to help improve vocational education.

Yet it is fundamentally depressing that Blair so quickly jumped to the defence of A-levels and that Kelly has so quickly followed. Other ministers say privately that despite David Miliband's impeccable loyalty in the TV studios, the former schools minister would have gone much further to bring vocational education in from the cold had he been promoted to education secretary a few months back.

Tomlinson must feel gutted. The people who will ultimately lose out are children from millions of core Labour-voting families, children who will be excluded from the slightly more open, slightly more equal-feeling country Tomlinson glimpsed.

More than that, we are seeing a classic New Labour fudge to avoid tough choices, which raises questions about the party's direction ahead of the manifesto. The prime minister seems to want a bit of elitism and nostalgia, but says he wants a progressive, inclusive agenda too. Sorry, not possible. He has spent years trying to win the affection of conservatives, while blowing kisses at radicals. It is, in the end, undignified.

Blairites scratch their heads about the relative unpopularity of their man just at the moment. Iraq, they say, has gone better. He's back to his brilliant campaigning best, far better on telly than his opponents, brimful of energy ... and yet this week's Guardian poll and others tell a different story. Perhaps it is this absurd political greediness that is the explanation. You can be for gold standards first and foremost. Or you can be for ending the educational divide. As on so many issues, from Europe to fox hunting, Labour is sending out a contradictory message; what you can't be for is gold standards for everyone. No one needs an A-level in logic to understand that.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1423863,00.html

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Initially, I thought I saw a glimmer of hope in Tomlinson that might lighten the hearts of MFL teachers, but now I'm not so sure. I see nothing in Tomlinson that changes the situation whereby senior management teams in schools can juggle the subject options for their own convenience, i.e. as they do at the moment in order to make their performance tables stats look good. On the plus side, the core skills of Maths, Literacy and ICT are a good thing, but most European countries would include knowledge of a foreign language as a core skill.

As a MFL teacher – in common with most other MFL teachers – I deplore the government’s decision to allow children in schools in England to drop the study of a foreign language after the age of 14. The effect of this is that in two thirds of state secondary schools in England children no longer study a foreign language beyond Key Stage 3. In the independent sector, however, virtually all children study a foreign language up to GCSE level. Thus the elitist system, whereby only “posh” kids in grammar schools and independent schools studied foreign languages, has now been restored.

I am not an avid supporter of The Daily Telegraph, but its leading article of 19/10/04 contains some food for thought:

>At the heart of Tomlinson, there is a colossal non sequitur. By requiring less academic pupils to learn only basic maths, functional literacy, "communication" and computer skills, it is hoped that more of them will discover an aptitude for "employment and adult life". But why should they? If science, literature, history, languages, music, art, geography, religion and politics are no longer considered essential attributes of humanity, then the effect will be to accelerate the infantilisation of adolescence. The motivated will still study these subjects, but the rest will prefer soft options.<

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The most disturbing aspect of the government’s rejection of the Tomlinson report is that the decision was taken for political reasons. Apparently David Miliband was going to be appointed as Secretary for Education but when it was discovered that he wanted to implement the Tomlinson Report the job was given to Blair poodle, Ruth Kelly, instead.

Why is Blair so keen to reject the Tomlinson proposals? Well, it is all to do with his floating voter, middle class, focus groups. These are the only people Blair takes notice of. It seems that this group has a majority in favour of retention of ‘A’ levels. So are the Tories. Blair fears that it is a topic that these floating voters might switch votes over. Like issues of immigration and asylum seekers, New Labour strategy is to follow closely policies being offered by the Tories. In this way, they stop this “floating voter” group from voting Tory. The problem for New Labour is that they are turning off their traditional supporters who are appalled by this kind of “focus group” politics.

It makes me laugh when New Labour and Conservative politicians refer to ‘A’ levels as being the “gold standard”. They obviously don’t know too much about history. As the economic historian, Roderick Floud, pointed out recently: “In the 1920s, the gold standard brought depression, mass unemployment, the only general strike in British history and the destruction of the first two Labour governments.” He adds: "Why is it an appropriate metaphor for the examination system that Britain needs in the 21st century?

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Below is an article by an Australian Professor at Monash Uni (Canberra) on education in Japan. This is very similar to what is happening now in most states of Australia, although not perhaps in quite such an orderly manner as in Japan.

Educational Vision Realised

Last week I visited a secondary school in Japan. It began life just ten years ago when the vision of education in Victoria suddenly narrowed its focus very considerably to focus on economic efficiency and structural indicators of effectiveness. To the contrary, educational vision was expanding in the Miyasaki Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu.

Private schools loom quite large in Japan although less so than in Victoria. A number of parents who can afford their high fees choose them in an effort to optimize their children’s chances in the competitive academic climate prevailing for university entrance. These private schools offer six years of secondary education in the same school context, whereas government schooling is organized into Junior high schools (Years 7-9) and Senior High schools (Years 10-12), thus confronting government school students with a significant social and educational transition after Year 9.

Part of the vision of the Board of Education for Miyasaki Prefecture was to make six years of continuous secondary education also available in the government system. This was, however, only part of the vision. More substantially, the Board had a belief that secondary education should be much more integrated than the differentiated subjects in secondary schooling usually allows.

This sense of integration involved at least three dimensions. The first was more integration of the school community of staff and students, particularly within and across the six year levels of secondary education. The second was a curriculum that facilitated integrated learning across and beyond the confines of the existing secondary subjects. The third was an integration of the life of the school with the life of the local community in which it is set.

Finally, the vision included that such an education should be economically accessible to any families in Miyasaki interested in this type of education.

The result was the establishment of Gokase Secondary School – a government boarding school for 40 students at each of the six year levels – in the small mountain community of Gokase (population 5000 plus) that had a long history of forestry and simple furniture making. “Go” is Japanese for 5, so the school has chosen five characteristics as its mission – Motivation, Loyalty, Sensitivity, High Values and Energy as part of Nature.

Each year group of 40 students forms a House with one of the teachers as House “father” or “mother”, and within the House six students (one from each year level) form a “family” with responsibilities of caring for each other and celebrating together events like birthdays.

Students are selected for the school on a set of information consisting of recommendations from the primary school, individual interviews, an entrance examination (not exceptional in Japan), and participation in social tasks. The current boarding fee is probably within possibility for 90% of families in Miyasaki.

For some learning purposes the 40 students form one class but on many occasions they work in smaller groupings. Many of the rooms were only set up for 20 or fewer students and the school was sufficiently staffed to make this small group teaching and learning possible.

On the day of my visit the whole school was engaged, year level by year level, in Integrated Education. The Japanese education system nationally is now committed in principle to Integrated Education for the equivalent of two to three hours per week from Year 1 to Year 12. The use of this substantial learning time is up to the teachers in individual schools. Gokase Secondary has pioneered this integrated learning opportunity since it began. Year 7 students had ridden 8 km uphill on mountain bikes to the Gokase Community Centre to study, with the help of local people, the history and place of dance in this community. Year 8 were engaging in timber crafts under the tutelage of local craft persons, not only learning skills of making timber chairs but also the commercial and social details and consequences of keeping this industry viable in today’s world. Year 9 students work on a year long self chosen topic which last year ranged from misconceptions about Buddhism to developing a anti-misting treatment for ski goggles.

Year 10 students chose between three environmental options – Mountain environment, Environmental science, and Art and Nature. In Year 11 a major enquiry project is undertaken in one of these environmental options. Four students I spoke to had chosen a science-based enquiry – one pair about negative ions in the atmosphere and the other about water quality and its maintenance. The Year 12 students work on a major report that is to bring together their integrated learning over the six years.

The subject curriculum in this school covers what is mandated nationally together with some school additions. In Years 7-9 there are 11 subjects – Japanese, English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Music/Art, Physical Education, Craft Education, Moral Education, Extension Studies and Integrated Regional Studies.

In Years 10 and 11 all these subjects continue, but Moral Education is now part of the Integrated Studies and IT appears. Social Studies is now differentiated and a choice is made between Art/Music/Caligraphy . In Year 11 separate sciences appear with Chemistry required and Physics/Biology optional. In Year 12 there are Japanese, English, Mathematics, one or more of the Sciences, one or more of the Social Sciences, Physical Education and Integrated Studies

Not surprisingly, after ten years the Boards of Education in Japan have new priorities and new issues to solve, among which the problem of empty school places and surplus teachers as the school age population drops looms large. Parental interests in education are also changing so that the competition for places is not now so fierce as in Gokase School’s early years. Nevertheless, Gokase School exists as a testimony to a vision of integrated schooling that is now more generally recognized in Japan, and a vibrant example that others may be inspired to emulate.

In Victoria I know very well that there are many government schools where there are caring communities and educational programs of quality. But I wonder, at the system level, what in ten years time will be testimony to the vision (or lack of it) that the Bracks Labor governments brought to Victorian education.

Peter J Fensham 24 September 2003

Emeritus Professor Peter Fensham of Monash University is at present visiting Japan as a Monbukagakusho Professor at Kobe University.

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