GCSEs to open university doors

TEENAGERS will be able to earn university entrance points with GCSEs from September.

A pupil with three good passes in English, maths and computer studies plus a portfolio of coursework will qualify for 30 points - worth a quarter of an A-grade A-level or a D-grade at AS level.

GCSE passes will partially qualify students for a key skills qualification, a new award for post-16 students from September.

The qualification, which requires skills in communication, use of number and information technology, will be open to all students, trainees and employees. It will be available from GCSE to degree level - national curriculum levels 1 to 4.

University points are currently awarded for A-levels but from 2002 will also be given for general national vocational qualifications, Scottish exams and key skills.

Most schools and colleges are expected to offer the key skills qualification from September. Earlier this month a Universities and Colleges Admissions Service survey of nearly 1,250 centres found that more than 85 per cent planned to introduce key skills.

Each of the three key skills will be assessed through both a portfolio and an external test. Pupils who get at least a C in GCSE computing will automatically get a new qualification - a level 2 key skills unit - worth 10 CAS points, or one twelfth of an A-level A grade. English and maths GCSE candidates can also earn these points if they submit an extra portfolio.

The key skills points are likely to be added up separately to the A-level points and then used a secondary guide for university admisson tutors.

The UCAS points for GCSEs came to light with the publication of a list of traditional exams which automatically grant candidates credit towards the new key skills qualification. The list is on a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority CD-Rom which aims to give advice about how to introduce key skills in September.

The authority has issued 15,000 schools, colleges and training providers with the CD-Rom which guides teachers through the introduction of the new qualifications.

GCSE-equivalent vocational qualifications will also qualify for the UCAS points. A-levels in English, maths and IT will exempt students from some or all of the level 3 key skills units but the UCAS points cannot be double-counted.

* A-level maths should carry more university entrance points than other subjects since curriculum advisers tried to make it more difficult, says the Mathematics Association. Nicholas Tate, head of the QCA, said that from September A-level maths would be harder than in the past.

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