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Ministers back broad view;Subject of the week;Economics and Business

Proposals for widening the post-16 curriculum have received official sanction, writes Liz Francis

The Government has announced how the outcomes of its consultation on post- 16 qualifications, Qualifying For Success, will be taken forward. Subject to some minor amendments, ministers have accepted the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's advice, which was based on the substantial returns to wide-ranging consultation.

The consultation showed strong support for an increase in mixing and matching across qualifications, improving key skills and widening the range of subjects studied.

Most respondents supported the reformulated AS-level, developed to improve opportunities for progression into advanced level study as well as increase breadth. The AS-level will contribute 50 per cent of marks to the full A-level, with care taken to ensure that the overall A-level standard is maintained.

Business studies is piloting the new AS from September. The QCA will reconvene the business studies and economics subject core development groups to review the cores in the light of changes resulting from the consultation.

The six-unit business GNVQ will also be piloted from September and a three-unit GNVQ will be developed, subject to consultation.

The issue of retaining the name advanced GNVQ cropped up again. Although there was no consensus, almost half the respondents preferred the name vocational or applied A-level. The Government has asked for further advice, not least because of the implications for the other levels of GNVQ and advanced level qualifications. It also raises questions about the distinctiveness of A-level business studies compared with an applied A-level (GNVQ business).

A new key skills qualification will build on the pilot and records the level achieved by candidates in communication, application of number and IT. Assessment and reporting of the wider key skills will be further piloted.

The QCA has advised that key skills teaching should be encouraged through suitable funding mechanisms, with the inspection framework and the new UCAS profile and tariff providing critical reinforcement. The business studies and economics core development groups will consider how these subjects can contribute to key skill achievements.

Consultation revealed strong support for a certificate in principle - a significant shift in opinion over the past two years. There are many possible models for an overarching certificate and the Government has asked the QCA to carry out further work in this area.

The QCA will start work immediately on design principles and will explore further, with key interest groups, the rationales for breadth of study that have emerged during the consultation period.

Changes will be phased in - the key skills qualification and revised foundation and inter-mediate GNVQs, including part one, will be launched in September 1999, subject to the outcomes from the current pilots.

Revised A-levels, including the reformulated AS-level, and advanced GNVQs, including six-unit and some three-unit awards, will be introduced from September 2000. The QCA will discuss with the awarding bodies more detailed schedules to make sure centres receive mat-erials in plenty of time. We will also be producing guidance and support materials for schools and colleges from September.

Liz Francis is professional officer for business and economics at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

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