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Higher priorities for alliance in Scotland

If Sir Ron Dearing were to seek a model for his review of the 16-19 curriculum, he should perhaps look no further than Scotland. There are those who believe that mergers of exam boards and awarding bodies will automatically lead England in the Scottish direction. The Scottish Examinations Board and Scottish Vocational Educational Council (SCOTVEC) now operate under a common chairman and are awaiting the go-ahead for merger into one new, statutory and overarching body, as recommended by the Secretary of State, to serve all state schools and colleges in Scotland.

The spur to this merger has come from revision of the Scottish Highers under the Higher Still initiative, which will bring academic and vocational courses together under the same title to provide a unified system of assessment and certification.

Dr Hamish Long, chief executive of the SEB, said the new qualification would help to bring about parity of esteem between the vocational and academic and create "better progression for young people in Scotland".

The presence of only one exam board and one awarding body made the whole process easier. He said: "It is easier not to have a choice of syllabuses, then comparability of standards does not arise.

"If there's a best course for chemistry, then choice should be restricted to that."

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