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Key skills course is A-level standard

In response to the letter from Urmston grammar school ("Key skills results were a disaster", TES, May 4), the suggestion that there has been a recent shift in standards is incorrect.

The key skills qualification began in September 1999 and standards have been constant since then. The tests are pitched at level 3, the same as A-levels. They have never been set at the level of a B at GCSE. It seems Urmston grammar has, regrettably, been misinformed.

Urmston students, we are told, will do well in their A-levels, presumably after two years of study. Is it therefore reasonable that the school should expect all its studens to reach level 3 in the key skills tests after just a term's study? Most students, in my view, will need a longer period of preparation to reach the standard.

Moreover, maths is not the same as application of number or English the same as communication. So doing well in exams in the former is no automatic guide to performance in the latter.

QCA does not accredit worthless qualifications. Were we to, teachers would rightly object. Our business is securing high standards and we make no apology for that.

David Hargreaves Chief executive, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority 83 Piccadilly, London W1

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