One of the country's most successful secondaries is overhauling the ICT exam that helps it to earn more than pound;2 million a year.
With help from the exam board Edexcel, Thomas Telford school, in Shropshire, is offering a new diploma in digital applications to replace its GNVQ in ICT.
Critics said the GNVQ did not deserve to be equivalent to four GCSE grades A*-C and that it exploited schools' desire to rise up the league tables quickly. The new pound;3,000-a-year diploma is also worth four top GCSE grades, but "cut-down" versions, worth one or two GCSEs, are also on offer.
The new DiDA consists of four units: using ICT, multimedia, graphics, and ICT in enterprise. Each is expected to take 90 hours to complete.
Students will follow an online course which guides them through the required projects. They will learn how to design websites, develop electronic art and use computers to develop business plans.
At the end of the course, they will present their work in an online "e-portfolio" that will be assessed by the teacher. Samples of the portfolios will be uploaded to Edexcel for moderation.
The DiDA has been piloted in 40 schools and will be extended over the next two years. The GNVQ will be scrapped by 2007.
Headteacher Sir Kevin Satchwell said: "I expect the DiDA to last as long as I am in education."
He said the school plans to start the course with Year 7 students next year, as they are so advanced in ICT. An A-level equivalent is also planned for sixth-formers.
But the school faces a race to bring the qualification on to the market first and beat off competition from a similar course due to be offered by the OCR exam board.
The board has been piloting a project since the summer at schools in Worcestershire and Slough, in which students are likewise required to present work in an e-portfolio.
Profits from Thomas Telford's latest courses are reinvested in education, with pound;2m spent on two city academies. A further pound;1.25m has been given to 70 schools bidding for specialist status.