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An exam too far

Daily Mail: The introduction of AS exams for lower-sixth-form pupils is not turning out to be one of David Blunkett's better reforms. Part of an attempt to make teenagers study more widely, they are simply proving an extra and distracting burden for pupils and teachers - one that threatens to undermine results in the all-important A-levels a year later.

And the potential damage goes even further. The first year of the sixth form has traditionally afforded youngsters the chance - through taking part in plays, debates and the production of school magazines - to exercise their minds in ways just as important for their future develpment as the subjects they learned in class. Yet, the introduction of AS exams threatens all that.

Now the London Oratory School, the elite Roman Catholic comprehensive where 17-year-old Euan Blair is a pupil, has become the first major school to announce that it is retaining the usual two-year A-level courses and not subjecting first-year sixth-form pupils to AS-levels.

John McIntosh, the Oratory's headmaster, is to be applauded for standing up for the best interests of his pupils. His example should encourage other sceptical heads, in both the state and independent systems, to follow suit.

Comment, June 4

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