Stubbs: 'Morris overreacted'

October 18, 2002

Students have had their faith sorely tested as A levels come under scrutiny and as many in higher education struggle to switch courses. The THES reports

The A-level crisis is the result of ministers overreacting to a relatively small problem, Sir William Stubbs, former chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority who was dismissed over the affair, said this week, writes Tony Tysome.

Sir William said that education secretary Estelle Morris "responded far too quickly to complaints for which the evidence had not been presented".

The government panicked and encouraged speculation that the number of students whose A levels would have to be regraded was far higher than the actual figure, he said. The number of regradings was small given the "huge" scale of change in the A-level system this year, Sir William said.

He refused to comment on reports that he was planning to sue Ms Morris for wrongful dismissal.

But he said: "What has been quite unnecessary is all of the allegations and concerns that the whole system was in disarray."

Despite introducing a complex examinations system in Curriculum 2000, most of the grading carried out by the awarding bodies was satisfactory, Sir William said.

"To expect to be 100 per cent correct in the first instance when you are dealing with over 10 million scripts is just unreal."

Sir William dismissed conclusions by Mike Tomlinson, who completed the regrading exercise, that the QCA had not defined standards clearly enough.

He said that the government had courted problems with Curriculum 2000 by insisting it be introduced to a tight timetable, rather than giving it at least another year, as the QCA would have preferred.

The government's involvement had more to do with political motives than concerns about standards, he suggested. To avoid similar problems in future, the QCA should report to Parliament rather than the secretary of state.

"I think the Department for Education and Skills is far too close to a system on which political objectives are now being judged," he said.

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