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A lighter kind of GCSE

Contrary to the claim on your front-page ("Pick and mix GCSE", TES, March 21), neither as chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority nor subsequently did I advocate the abolition of the GCSE.

My view has long been that the GCSE suffers from being a qualification at both levels 1 and 2. Yet those who achieve at level 1 (grades D to G) think of themselves as a failure at level 2 rather than as successful on the first rung of a ladder of achievement leading to A-level.

So I have argued that the GCSE should be split into two modules, one at each level. During my time at the QCA I advised ministers on the possibility of a "hybrid" GCSE, which would combine general and vocational elements, and would provide a basis for a unified modular structure.

However, such a change could increase the assessment burden. So I suggest that all level 1 units should be marked by teachers with light moderation, as should level 2 units, except English, maths and science, where external marking would assure the maintenance of standards.

As the GCSE evolves in the light of 14-19 developments, it is essential that it becomes more flexible and less of a high stakes examination.

David H Hargreaves 1 Brook Lane Coton, Cambridge

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