Government plans to introduce a second GCSE in maths from 2010 are in disarray, The TES can reveal.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has released details of revisions to the existing core maths GCSE, with no mention of the proposed second exam.
It had been intended that most pupils would take both exams, with the extra exam designed to provide a better foundation for maths A-level than the current GCSE and raise the numbers of 16- to 18-year-olds studying maths.
Sceptics fear that it may now never happen.
The revisions are in a consultation document that suggests the reformed core maths GCSE could be put back from 2010 to 2011.
In 2006, Ruth Kelly, then education secretary, announced that a second maths GCSE would be launched by 2010, designed to challenge the brightest.
The move followed a Government recommendation two years earlier that a second exam was needed to reflect the amount of time pupils spend on the subject.
However, the change has been beset by difficulties defining what the second exam would consist of, and its level of difficulty.
The new GCSE - provisionally called additional maths - was supposed not to be any harder than the core maths GCSE, which would include a basic, or functional skills, element. This was problematic, given that additional maths was meant to be taken mainly by those good at the subject. The two exams were also supposed to tackle different areas of maths knowledge. But earlier this year the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority insisted that the core maths GCSE would cover all areas of the maths curriculum at key stage 4. This left additional maths GCSE with "nowhere to go", a source said.
The consultation document on the QCA's plans for the core GCSE says that there were "challenges in developing distinctive criteria for two GCSEs in mathematics based on the same programme of study". Consultees are asked whether there is a need for a second GCSE in the subject, and whether one should be introduced in 2011, possibly at the same time as the core GCSE.
A letter from Ofqual, the regulator, published alongside the consultation document, says that it retains an "open mind" over whether two maths GCSEs could be developed.
The consultation runs until September. Any changes would need to be approved by Ofqual.