Board wants to keep exam titles

26th March 2004 at 00:00
GCSEs and A-levels should live on in the new diploma planned for England's secondary schools, an exam board proposed this week.

The OCR board said that the new qualification, billed as a replacement for all existing secondary exams, would be less confusing for employers and universities if its courses were labelled as GCSE or A-level equivalent.

But critics say the suggestion could threaten the future of the diploma, as employers and universities might simply assess young people on their marks in GCSE or A-level units, disregarding the overall mark.

The call was made in the OCR's submission to the Tomlinson inquiry into the future of secondary education, which is proposing to introduce the diploma as an all-embracing qualification for 14 to 19-year-olds within 10 years.

The plans would see adapted GCSE courses integrated into an intermediate-level diploma, with A-levels being subsumed into the advanced-level award.

Although the task force has said that academic courses within the diploma will be based on existing qualifications, there has been no plan to retain their names.

OCR suggests the courses could be called GCSE, or A-level-equivalent units.

Other courses could be identified as the equivalent of existing vocational awards.

Greg Watson, OCR chief executive, said: "This could be one of the easy ways for employers to make sense of a CV. It's got common currency."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said "All that will happen if you keep the names is to put the A-level units at the top of the pecking. It will reduce the status of vocational courses, which have never had such a familiar name."

Englands two other exam boards have not yet finalised their submissions.

Alan Wells, director of the Basic Skills Agency, in his response to the post-14 proposals, told The TES that they risked turning off low-achieving youngsters because they were difficult to understand.

The inquiry, led by the former chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, produced its proposals in a 100-page report last month.

It proposes a four-level diploma, with students able to choose between "open" diplomas, offering free subject choice, and "specialist" diplomas, where employers or universities specified what would be studied.

Mr Tomlinson said: "I think we are capable of (keeping the diploma simple) because there are other similar systems around the world which have been made simple enough for people to understand."

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