Schools will break the law if they fail to offer students enough courses

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Secondary schools in Northern Ireland will be breaking the law from this year if they fail to broaden their subject choice.

The North’s education minister John O’Dowd is raising awareness of his department’s Entitlement Framework, which becomes statutory this September.

The idea is that pupils from all schools and all backgrounds will have the same opportunities and an increased number of courses opened up to them.

All post-primary schools will have to offer access to at least 24 different GCSEs and 27 A levels by 2015/16.

They must also provide a range of both academic and vocational courses.

As many will be unable to meet this demand alone, it is envisaged they will collaborate with other schools or further education colleges.

Schools will not have to offer the full range of subjects immediately, however.

New targets set by Mr O’Dowd are for schools to offer at least 18 courses at key stage 4 and 21 at post-16 by 2013/14.

This will rise to 21 courses at key stage 4 and 24 at post-16 in 2014/15 before reaching the ultimate 24/27 target by September 2015.

Mr O’Dowd says he wants to ensure that all pupils aged 14 to 19 are aware of the choice that is available to them.

“The Entitlement Framework enhances the ability of schools to plan and manage the offer of courses for the benefit of all pupils in the local area,” he said.

“Every pupil is different and choices should reflect each young person’s interests and aspirations whether that be continuing in education or moving into training and employment.”

The Department of Education has produced an information leaflet for parents and pupils to inform them and to encourage them to work with their school.

Pupils will soon make decisions on their subject choices and Mr O’Dowd says it is important they are fully aware of what is available.

“There may be times when a school simply cannot offer access to the course they want, but every opportunity should be explored,” he added.


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