Labour retreats from A-level reform

20th February 1998 at 00:00
The Government is set to ignore calls for a re-vamped A-level system - despite holding six months of emergency consultation on sixth form studies.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has told ministers that A-levels should be broken into six separate chunks to help sixth-form students "mix and match" their A-levels with units of the vocational GNVQ.

But all questions of more radical change will be put firmly onto the back-burner next month when the Department for Education and Employment announces its response to the consultation exercise on 16 to 19 qualifications. Instead ministers will content themselves with the reforms suggested by Sir Ron Dearing back in the summer of 1996.

This will prove a setback for supporters of the baccalaureate - including many in the Government's own ranks.

They were given new hope after the general election when the incoming Government made the surprise announcement that it would re-open the A-level debate.

But with literacy and numeracy dominating the Government's agenda, ministers are steering away from other potentially troublesome areas.

Last week the QCA, which organised the latest post-16 consultation, took the innovative step of publishing the responses on its website.

The exercise showed a strong consensus favouring a co-ordinated system of qualifications which allows students to gain equal credit for vocational and academic studies.

According to the QCA's analysis of these responses, there is support for many of Sir Ron's original proposals including:

- making combinations of GNVQ and other exams easier;

- proposals that all students should study the "key skills" of numeracy, communication and information technology;

- an overarching certificate in principle;

- all qualifications to be included in a national framework;

- the reformed AS-level;

- the smaller, 3-unit GNVQ;

- keeping both forms of A-level, the traditional "linear" route with a terminal exam, and the modular type;

- more flexibility for coursework.

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