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Call to let pupils skip GCSEs

HEADTEACHERS have been urged to let pupils skip GCSEs and go straight on to A-level in some subjects.

Nicholas Tate, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - the Government quango that runs public exams - was due to tell the Independent Schools Council conference yesterday that more pupils should take GCSEs early while sixth-formers should also use them to broaden their studies.

Dr Tate was expected to say that the GCSE does not have a long-term future as an exam for 16-year-olds. He said: "Current requirements about the range of subjects to be studied by 14 to 16-year-olds are highly desirable for most pupils, but it is less obvious that all these subjects should be studied simultaneously.

"A more extended view of breadth - backwards into the 11-14 curriculum and forwards into 16-19 - would reduce the pressures on a very crowded phase."

Dr Tate's view is likely to be supported by his successor, David Hargreaves, professor of education at Cambridge University, who takes over as QC chief executive on September 1. Professor Hargreaves has in the past called for the abolition of GCSEs.

Dr Tate also admitted this week that A-level maths standards have fallen during his time in charge.

He said there was now a need to "reassert earlier standards" in maths A levels. He said that there was "some substance" in the complaints of universities who said A-level maths students were no longer adequately prepared for degree courses.

He claimed that the new A-level syllabus to be introduced in September would make future exams "somewhat more demanding" by adding more algebra, trigonometry and geometry and restricting the use of calculators.

In the past, ministers and officials have dismissed claims that A-levels have become easier.

But Dr Tate admitted: "The overall standard of A-level maths in future is going to be somewhat more demanding than the current one. What we are doing is putting right what we felt was a slight backsliding of a few years ago."

Week in education, 22

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