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A-level overhaul deferred

The Tomlinson inquiry will tell the Government that it must listen to teachers' demands to cut the exam burden.

The report, due out on Tuesday, was ordered by former Education Secretary Estelle Morris following the A-level grading furore.

The former chief inspector of schools has been forced to grapple with the contradictory demands of restoring confidence in A-levels while making recommendations about its structure.

As The TES reported last week, Mr Tomlinson is not expected to propose any instant or radical changes to qualifications and exams in the short-term. However, he will say that the Government's 14 to 19 reforms need to consider how to tackle the excessive quantity of external exams and introduce more teacher assessment. This issue is currently missing from the Green Paper proposals.

Mr Tomlinson is likely to recommend that external assessment of the three-module AS, taken in the lower sixth, should be reduced.

He will also recommend that sixth-formers apply to university after their A-level results have been published.

Mr Tomlinson said: "The exam slot needs more time. Exam boards and examiners go through an intense time. I am generally in favour of a post-qualification university admissions system. It has many attractions, but also many drawbacks and costs that would be attached if it was introduced."

The report will kick-start the debate about post-qualification admissions to university. Heads and teacher unions are in favour of such a system. Mr Tomlinson is thought to favour postponing the start of the first year of university to January. However, Universities UK complains it would put off poorer students and overseas applicants.

A six-term school year, under discussion by many local authorities at the moment, would allow exams to be taken earlier.

Better definitions of the responsibilities of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, exam boards and the Department for Education and Skills will be recommended as a precursor to a change in the QCA's status.

* The Government's inquiry into post-14 maths will be headed by Professor Adrian Smith, principal of Queen Mary College, London University.

Friday magazine, 12

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