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In search of unity

(Photograph) - Education is the key to national renewal the Social Justice Commission said this week. Susan Young analyses its report. "The present system of qualifications drives our education system towards selecting a few and failing the rest. Reform of qualifications is needed to drive an integrated education and training system towards participation and progression for everyone.

The details of a unified system obviously need to be worked out, though models already exist. The aim must be to allow the diversity of talent that already exists to flourish. The basic principles we support for this country are: * The creation in the long term of a single qualification to be awarded on graduation from secondary education - a British bac - broadening A-level experience and providing general educational rigour for those currently in specialised vocational options.

* Development of a credit-based system of learning, so that students have wide choice of courses.

* Review of the status of GCSE at 16-plus - England and Wales are now the only industrialised countries except Russia with a 'school-leaving' exam at 16.

* A combination of continuing assessment of coursework with final assessment through exams.

* A commitment to high-status and high-quality work-based learning."

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