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AQA gets its own bacc

Britain's biggest examinations board is pressing ahead with plans for its own baccalaureate qualification.

The "AQA bacc" will not be an alternative to A-levels but a chance for students to get recognition for wider educational activities alongside their A-level work.

Details are still provisional, but students are likely to have to pass an AS level in citizenship, critical thinking or general studies, with three A levels of their choice.

In addition they will have to complete "enrichment" activities work-related learning, community service and personal development work such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme or debating societies.

They will also be expected to complete an extended project in any subject they choose.

The AQA bacc, which could be available nationally from September 2008, will be graded at pass, merit and distinction, with the focus on students' performance in their A-levels and an extended project.

Mike Cresswell, director general of the AQA board, said the new qualification would be welcomed by schools with a good record on fostering pupils' broader education. It is to be tried out in one college this summer and on a larger scale next year.

The AQA bacc is not as prescriptive as the International Baccalaureate, which replaces A-levels and requires students to take a language, a science, a humanities subject and maths.

Meanwhile, plans to offer students the chance to complete their own extended project as a qualification in its own right, worth the equivalent of an AS level, are moving forward.

AQA's trials of the extended project at Farnborough sixth form college in Hampshire last year were judged a success and the board is now piloting it in about 80 schools and colleges.

Three models are being proposed: one in which students would complete their assignments entirely in Year 12, another entirely in Year 13 and a third straddling the two sixth form years.

Another exam board, Edexcel, is running its own pilot. Students are to be offered the chance to begin extended projects for real from next September.

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