Government admits bungling A-level change

July 25, 2003

The government has admitted that it was a mistake to introduce new-style A levels without a pilot of the whole range of reforms and has pledged never to repeat the error.

This week's governmental response to the Commons education select committee report into A-level standards states: "The possibility of piloting the A2 exam was not contemplated at the time. We accept that this would have been desirable. We recognise absolutely that there are lessons to be learnt for the future about the way in which we implement major reforms of this sort."

Responding explicitly to last week's Tomlinson report - which proposed a baccalaureate-style qualifications system - it continues: "Any future reform will be fully developed, piloted and tested with all the necessary supporting guidance and exemplar material available before implementation."

The report also asks universities to accept AS levels as entrance qualifications. Department for Education and Skills officials have been touring the country encouraging admissions staff to use them in making entrance offers.

* Figures released earlier this week by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority show that the number of A-level appeals fell last year. The QCA attributes the drop to candidates assuming that last year's investigation into the deliberate deflation of grades by exam boards would cover them.

Last summer, just 1.6 per cent of A-level entries were involved in an inquiry, compared with 2.7 per cent the previous year. Only a quarter of these affected candidates who had sought urgent re-marks to secure a place in higher or further education. Overall, less than 10 per cent of inquiries and 0.6 per cent of all entries resulted in a grade change.

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