In the news: Jonathan Ford

August 20, 2004

It may be August, but holidays are the last thing on Jonathan Ford's mind. The managing director of the new National Assessment Agency, part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, is at his desk as A-level results are released and the row about grade inflation refuses to die down.

The NAA has been set up to modernise the exam system for the 21st century, ensure a sufficient supply of examiners and run national curriculum tests. Ken Boston, QCA chief executive, said at its launch in April he was confident the agency would "deliver substantial improvements".

The national curriculum tests caused embarrassment for Dr Ford a couple of months into his job when 25,000 14-year-olds failed to get their results for English before the summer holidays.

This week Dr Ford, a senior associate of Cambridge University's Judge Institute of Management and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, waded into the public debate on the reform of A levels and GCSEs.

Although Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, has hinted he may support their replacement with a diploma, Dr Ford said A levels must be retained.

"They work, they are reliable and their integrity is valued and trusted by employers and admissions tutors across the globe," he said.

Dr Ford's NAA position is far more public than his previous project management roles in both the public sector and the oil and energy industries. He has also had dealings with academics and universities through his management of outsourcing and transferring clinical education to higher education for the NHS Executive.

His background is also reflected in a £128,750 salary, higher than that of Dr Boston, his boss. But whether that sum is sufficient compensation for the pain of attempting to rehabilitate Britain's ailing exam system while keeping teachers, admissions tutors and the public happy is a question only Dr Ford can answer.

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