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Education Comment: Losing sight of subject of the exercise - children.

THE new report from Estyn, Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales, proves true a myth as ancient as the unicorn.

It declares that yes, exams are scheduled in a way which guarantees they fall on some of the most glorious days of the year.

This fact is familiar to anyone who has slaved over sheets of exam papers in a stifling sports hall, desperately trying to remember the first three digits of Pi.

The report is to be applauded for daring to ask ``Why?'' It calls for radical changes in the school calendar to fulfil ``A Vision for Schools in Wales in the 21st Century''.

It rightly traces the patterns of the current school year back to the needs of agricultural societies from the last century when children emptied out of the classrooms and into the fields where they laboured.

Picking potatoes, threshing and shearing are activities unfamiliar to most of the pupil population of the internet generation.

If Britain was designing a school system from scratch, it is very unlikely the academic year would begin in September.

When more and more people complain of Seasonal Adjustment Disorder and live, literally, under a cloud throughout the winter season, no one would choose this time of year to launch a new educational programme.

Yet this is precisely in this horrendous season when fresh ideas, the distillation of some of the finest wisdom yet garnered by humankind, is force-fed to children hankering after the erstwhile summer holidays.

The blue-sky thinking in the report points towards a future where daily on-site attendance at school will have been replaced by on-line studying elsewhere.

By putting children in their bedrooms with only a plastic mouse for company we will not raise a generation which lives to seize the day.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 6, 2002
Words:297
Previous Article:Education: Schools hours questioned.
Next Article:Education: Demanding period of change; Brian Rowlands is General Secretary, SHA (Secondary Heads Association) Cymru.

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