Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A-Levels Face Yet Another Reform after Grades Fiasco

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A-Levels Face Yet Another Reform after Grades Fiasco

Article excerpt


THE RETURN of traditional A-levels was heralded today by the final report into this year's sixth-form exams debacle.

In a move which would rewrite key Government reforms, former chief schools inspector Mike Tomlinson recommended that controversial AS-levels should be split off as a separate exam.

And he questioned whether sixth formers should need to pass it to go on to study the A2 qualification, taken this year for the first time at the end of the second year of the sixth form.

Mr Tomlinson's recommendations, in his final report on this year's exams affair, would clear the way for the A2 to become the recognised university entrance qualification, the true successor to the traditional A-level.

At present, sixth formers could get a college place simply by studying enough AS-level courses, which carry half the university entrance "points" of a traditional A-level.

Today's report spells out how confusion over the levels of difficulty of the AS-level and A2 qualifications, and the need to reconcile them with the A-level, spread chaos this summer.

This year, Dr Ron McLone, chief executive of the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam board, overruled his chief examiners on more than 400 occasions in a misguided attempt to maintain the "standard" of the old A-level.

He raised the number of marks required to reach each grade in an attempt to prevent the new exam appearing too easy.

In the end, as a result of the first stage of the Tomlinson inquiry, more than 2,000 A2 and AS-level grades were raised, virtually all in papers set by the OCR board.

Without criticising Dr McLone directly, Mr Tomlinson today recommended drastic curbs on the power of the exam boards to ensure that that cannot happen again. He recommended that the Government's exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, should "scrutinise all stages of the awarding process". …

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