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Practical GCSEs are not too hard

The work David Jesson of York university has done on the applied GCSE in information and communications technology is hardly conclusive ("Future bleak for practical GCSEs", TES, April 1).

It assumes the teaching of applied ICT gets the same resources as other GCSE subjects (eg English) throughout key stages 3 and 4. In fact, reports from the Office for Standards in Education in 2004 on applied GCSEs contain a wealth of evidence that this is not the case.

It is not therefore a surprise if pupils with given key stage 2 results do better five years later in other GCSEs than in applied ICT. This does not mean that the standards demanded in Applied GCSE exams are too high.

As far as AQA's applied GCSE is concerned ("Board changes 8,000 marks" TES, March 25), when a problem came to light on one unit of our new Applied ICT examination in 2004 we took action to ensure candidates were treated fairly by scaling the marks.

This action was successful and results for our GCSE in 2004 were comparable with other boards'.

Changes to the assessment process for 2005 addressed the problem and marks have not had to be adjusted for the most recent exam in January.

We ensured that schools and colleges were fully informed of the actions we took and continue to provide high levels of support to teachers and candidates using our applied GCSE ICT.

Mike Cresswell Director general Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, Stag Hill House, Guildford, Surrey

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