In its second response to the education select committee's inquiry into last year's controversy, the Department for Education and Skills acknowledged the A2 exam had not been properly trialled.
A-level reforms introduced in 2000 launched the AS qualification, generally taken in the first year of the sixth form, and the A2, in the second. The AS was piloted, but the A2 was not, leading the committee to conclude in a report earlier this year that this had meant teachers and exam boards were not clear about the standard of the new A-level qualification.
The Government was asked to respond. When it did so, earlier this month, the committee was so unhappy with its answers that it refused to publish the document. It felt that the key issue of the trialling of A2 had not been addressed.
This week's response went further. The Government said it had acted on the advice of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority that the new A-level should not be introduced before September 2000. The possibility of delaying the launch of the qualification beyond then "did not enter the discussions", the department said.
It added: "The AS was piloted before its introduction, as the QCA recognised it was a new qualification and a new standard would need to be established. The possibility of piloting the A2 exam was not contemplated at the time. We accept this would have been desirable."
Barry Sheerman, committee chairman, said: "At last, the Government has said 'yes, we made mistakes, yes, it should have been piloted'. I welcome that, especially at a time when more changes to examinations are in the air."