Mr Woodhead told the Commons education select committee that the Office for Standards in Education and the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority are holding talks with the exam boards to explore ways of ensuring consistency of grades. He said he felt the question should be investigated so that students would not have to suffer the annual debate about whether their results were of less value than those of previous years.
"If we have a system where an A doesn't mean what it meant 10 or 30 years ago I think there's a problem," he said. He hoped that methodology to ensure consistency could be sorted out and said a report would be completed in about nine months.
The move follows a similar inquiry set up in 1992 by John Patten, the former education secretary, in response to right-wing academics' doubts that improving exam results were proof of rising standards. He asked for exam results to be monitored every three years.