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Simplification of the two As will make everyone happier

IS the Government finally ditching its A-level reforms, the ill-fated moves to broaden the curriculum which have given it so many headaches since they were introduced two years ago?

Certainly that was the verdict of many headline writers this week, who read Mike Tomlinson's report as giving ministers an excuse to abandon the Curriculum 2000 changes and return to traditional A-levels.

The report calls on ministers to look, in the long-term, at "de-coupling" the two parts of the A-level, creating two separate qualifications, the AS and the A2.

The principal reason was simplicity: most people struggle to understand the extraordinarily complex rules by which AS and A2 marks are aggregated, so why not separate them?

It was only Mr Tomlinson's suggestion that in future some students might not need to take an AS on their way to a two-year A2 that was seized on.

Given that schools last year were complaining about exam overload when pupils sat the first AS-levels, it is not unreasonable to think that many will now desert the qualification. But the Secondary Heads Association denies this analysis.

General secretary John Dunford is confident that schools will still support the AS, provided the Government accepts that most of the course is modular and marked internally by teachers.

This way, says Dr Dunford, the idea behind the Government's reform - to give students a chance to study a wider range of subjects in the lower-sixth and those not academic enough to continue to A2 the ability to get a less-demanding qualification at 17 - would be preserved.

But David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, argues that universities will now be even less likely to recognise the AS. The danger was that the old system would return by default.

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