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A Labour government could mean more exam turmoil, Ofqual warns

Teachers are likely to face two extra years of disruption from exam reform if there is a change of government next year, Ofqual has warned.

The timetable for introducing new GCSEs and A-levels already means that schools will have to cope with continuous exam change until 2019.

But speaking yesterday, Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief regulator, said that Labour’s policy to “recouple” A-levels to AS-levels was “not a simple task” and would take an additional two years to complete.

Tristram Hunt, shadow education secretary, wants a “swift reversal” of the coalition government’s decision to make the AS-level a stand-alone qualification that no longer contributes to A-level grades.

The Labour MP said earlier this year that schools and exam boards should take a “twin-track approach” so that they were prepared for his party taking office next May and the return of the AS-level. He added that he wanted to “end the relentless churn and party political tinkering with education policy”.

Now Ms Stacey has outlined what his policy would mean in practice, saying that a government that wanted to recouple AS-levels had two stop-gap options for September 2015.

It could either leave the current unreformed A- and AS-levels running or allow the coalition’s new “decoupled” qualifications to be introduced temporarily.

In either case, exam boards would need two years to adapt the new content they had already developed for the reformed A-levels to be used for new “coupled” qualifications. This time would also be needed for the boards to deal “with the known anomalies in coupling”, Ms Stacey said.

Mr Hunt has indicated on Twitter that he favours the former option with no changes to A-levels until 2017. That means that any schools preparing for the coalition’s reformed A-levels, due to be taught from next September, will have wasted their time if Labour wins the general election in May.

Ms Stacey acknowledged that “these are anxious times for teachers”. “We are of the view that the new qualifications will need time to run, over a period of years, so as to embed themselves in the education system,” she said. “We will be pressing the case for stability, whatever the flavour of government.”

Related stories:

AS-levels would return under Labour, pledges Tristram Hunt April 19 2014

Schools face five solid years of constant exam revolution April 9 2014

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