Alarm as A-level confusion persists

25th April 2003 at 01:00
SEVEN months after last year's A-level regrading furore began and just weeks away from this year's exams, the confusion over who sets standards has yet to be resolved.

Uncertainty about responsibility for A-level standards was a major cause of last year's fiasco, with last-minute changes to grade boundaries. But there is still no formal definition of the precise roles of the key exam players: the Government, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the exam boards.

The boards claim not to have been consulted on the proposed "memo of understanding" defining the various roles, despite Mike Tomlinson's report recommending that they draw it up with ministers and the QCA.

An exam board source said that the QCA had submitted a draft agreement three months ago to the Department for Education and Skills for approval, but that the DfES had been unhappy with it.

Damian Green, shadow education secretary, has asked Parliamentary questions on the issue. He said: "I have been told that no consultation with exam boards has been going on. I think at least some of the lessons of last summer have not been learned, which is quite alarming. The last thing anyone wants is any kind of repetition of the uncertainty of last year."

Some of Mr Tomlinson's recommendations, including changes to the exam code of practice and the issuing of graded examples of work, have now been implemented.

A DfES spokeswoman would not comment on the proposed agreement, beyond saying it would be published "shortly". She would not say whether exam boards were involved in drawing it up.

Opinion, 21

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