If they work, fix them

February 14, 1997

A-levels standards are high, a two-year inspection from the Office of Standards in Education has insisted, despite the education secretary's announcement this week that they face the "biggest shake-up in their history" to check criticism of declining standards.

Published this week, Ofsted's Examinations Quality and Standards 1996 report found that A levels were "well organised, procedures are thorough, examinations are suitable for their purpose and their assessment is reliable".

Inspections at 70 schools, scrutinising over 2,000 exam scripts found that: * The introduction of the Code of Practice has enhanced consistency

* Consistent standards were applied between 1994-96

* New modular syllabuses have enhanced student attitudes to study

* Marking was good and there was a high level of consistency

But the report did support Mrs Shephard's "crack-down" on examination boards. "The variations in standards between boards show a need for a more systematic approach to comparability and should be given a higher priority than at present," Ofsted said.

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