Standards monitor set to fold

England's qualifications regulator is poised to disband an independent committee on exam standards which was established three years ago as a key element in restoring trust in A-levels.

The committee, with a remit to investigate and report publicly on whether standards have been maintained, was recommended by Sir Mike Tomlinson following the regrading fiasco in 2002.

It has produced two major reports, one revealing that not all exam boards make equal demands on pupils, the other concluded it was impossible to say whether standards had risen or fallen in recent years.

This summer the committee was due to investigate the standards of vocational GCSEs. But the review was put on hold after it emerged that two of the three committee members were leaving.

Barry McGaw, committee chairman, is standing down after leaving his Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development post in Paris, and heading back to his native Australia.

Caroline Gipps, a committee member, is also unable to continue after becoming vice-chancellor of Wolverhampton university. Robert Godber, former head of Wath comprehensive, south Yorkshire, is the other member. Now Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to which the committee reports, is recommending it be discontinued.

A minute of a July QCA board meeting, now released, suggests that the regulator believes that standards monitoring can be done in-house, by its new regulation and standards division.

The recommendation is subject to ratification by Sir Mike, a QCA board member, who said he had yet to speak to Dr Boston about the plan.

He said that he had recommended the committee be set up after his report found that there was no way of finding out whether A-level standards had been maintained.

Sir Mike said it was important the work on standards continued, that its findings were made public and that its investigations concerned current exams.

The QCA said that its new division could take on the work but that no final decision had yet been taken.


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