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From the archive - 20.09.1991

Competition 'threat to standards'

Keen competition for fees is leading to exam boards offering higher A-level grades to make them more attractive to schools, a leading examiner has claimed.

Vivian Anthony, an economics chief examiner, made the claim at the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference this week. At a press conference he was joined by leading public school heads, who deplored the exam board practice, claiming there had been a decline in academic standards as a result.

"There is little doubt that academic education is under threat," said Geoffrey Parker, high master of Manchester Grammar School. "In English literature, I am told one board allows The Day of the Jackal as an acceptable set text."

But this week an exam board chief defended the decision to put Frederick Forsyth's popular thriller on the A-level book list. Dr Adrian Woodthorpe, deputy chief executive of the University of London Examinations and Assessment Council, said: "If teachers feel they don't wish to teach it they're not obliged to."

Kenneth Clarke, the education secretary, said he was not against using contemporary authors for A-level syllabuses.

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