Morris tells Kelly to go for diploma

19th August 2005 at 01:00
Estelle Morris, the education secretary who presided over the 2002 A-level grading fiasco, this week called for the exams to be scrapped in favour of a diploma.

She said the time was now "ripe for modernisation" and urged Ruth Kelly to reconsider the Government's decision to reject the recommendations of the Tomlinson 14-to-19 review.

"I hope Ruth Kelly will re-visit it in the coming months and years," she told BBC Radio 4. "Somebody once said to me that nobody wants to be the Secretary of State that is known as having abolished A-levels.

"I think there's another way of looking at that. The 14-to-19 exam system is now ripe for modernisation, ripe for renewal. I think Ruth has the opportunity to be remembered as the Secretary of State for Education who actually had the courage to grasp that and move ahead."

Ms Morris, who quit as an MP at the last election, said she "leant" more towards Tomlinson than the DfES, adding that while the world of education for 14 to 19-year-olds had changed rapidly, the Government response had been "piecemeal".

"The problem the Government has is that it will look at reform in the 14 to 19 (age group) but when it looks at reform it makes itself one precondition. The precondition is that we will look at reform of 14 to 19 exams but we will not abolish A-level and not abolish GCSEs."

The 2002 grading scandal ultimately prompted the review of 14 to 19 by Sir Mike Tomlinson which recommended that GCSEs and A-levels be replaced with diplomas combining academic and vocational courses.

Ms Morris' comments come amid growing support for GCSEs and A-levels to be replaced. A survey of 250 secondary staff for Teachers' TV found 42 per cent of teachers and 50 per cent of heads wanted the exams scrapped; 58 per cent of teachers and 65 per cent of heads favoured less exam-focused assessment.

A GuardianICM poll found that 90 per cent of the public also want changes to the way students are examined.

Ms Kelly has pledged to reconsider an overhaul of the exams system in 2008.

She will announce reforms in the autumn, including harder questions at the end of the exam. The optional, half-hour "extension paper" is intended to stretch the brightest pupils.

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