Today's news

August 11, 2003

Exam watchdog deals blow to future of GCSEs
Schools are free to abandon GCSEs completely if they wish to, the head of the government's examinations watchdog said yesterday. Ken Boston said that he was happy to let head teachers decide whether teenagers should sit any GCSEs or move instead to taking AS exams as part of A-level courses. The remarks from the man charged with maintaining the examination system will deal a blow to the reputation of the GCSE just days before this year’s results are released to half a million teenagers. (Also, Times editorial comment on why A-level reform should include university admissions.)
(Times, Guardian, Financial Times)

Exam board chief says core subjects should be optional
Students should not be forced to study subjects such as English, maths and science under the government's shake-up of A-levels, one of the country's most senior examiners said yesterday. Kathleen Tattersall, a member of the government inquiry into education for students aged 14 to 19 and head of the country's biggest exam board, said that making subjects compulsory could deter students from staying at school after the age of 16.

Princes boost trend towards gap year
More youngsters than ever are expected to delay their entry into higher education this summer as 50,000 school leavers begin a gap year between their A-levels and university. The increased popularity of taking a year out to travel the world or work to save towards the cost of a degree is likely to continue, reaching 150,000 within three years, according to predictions. Some observers suggest that the trend may be influenced by the "Princes' effect". Prince Harry is among school leavers taking a year out - to Australia, following in the footsteps of his older brother William, who travelled to Africa and Chile.
(Daily Telegraph)

Universities snub boy genius
A boy genius has been turned down by universities because he's only 13. Adam Spencer from Clifton, Bedfordshire, got seven top-grade GCSEs and a B-grade in A-level maths before his friends had finished primary school. He is expected to pass French, biology and chemistry A levels with flying colours this week. But new child safety laws insist lecturers teaching minors must be vetted and universities are refusing to make the costly checks for the sake of just one student.
(The Sun)

Britain's oldest exam certificate found
Archaeologists have uncovered the earliest examination certificate ever found in Britain. Fragments of two bronze sheets, which had been threaded together, were unearthed by metal detector enthusiasts in Norfolk. The diploma was awarded in AD98 to a garrison soldier whose name has not survived but who was recruited in the imperial province of Pannonia, now the Balkans. His certificate acknowledges lessons learned during 25 years in the Roman army. As the Roman empire declined, diplomas were traded on an illegal market as proof of citizenship.

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