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Is this the end of A-levels?

It looks like one. It smells like one. Could it be the English baccalaureate promised by new Labour in its fledgling years? Not quite. It has a lot of academic content. Surely, it's the Welsh bac? Think again.

It's the all-singing, all-dancing "specialised" 14-19 diploma (see pages 16 and 17). The first ever, fully endorsed by industry, it has the three "Rs", key skills, soft skills like communication in the business environment, maths, IT, a language (possibly) and big chunks of GCSE or A-level academic study.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority says it's unique. Well, it's certainly a unique move in the right direction. In France, it is called the baccalaureat technologique; in Germany, the Fachabitur. Certainly, if we are to harmonise qualifications across Europe, we must go this way.

With such a seamless 14-19 diploma, covering enough academic options for the full student ability range, A-levels could be abolished. Now, there's a novel idea.

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