Playing politics with our exams

4th April 2003 at 01:00
THE news that A-level and GCSE exams this summer are threatened by a lack of examiners demonstrates that the crisis over Curriculum 2000 is far from over. Although press interest died off after the first stage of the Tomlinson report, teachers know that the impact of introducing a new layer of exams at AS-level on a modular basis has placed the whole public exam system under intolerable pressure. The problems have not been understood or addressed.

Ministers have chosen to play politics with the system. The announcement in January by Charles Clarke and David Miliband that they want a baccalaureate by 2010 demonstrates they have no concept of the crisis they have inherited. Political failings led to Curriculum 2000 being introduced without proper consultation, and yet without waiting for stage two of the Tomlinson report to begin the debate on what went wrong, ministers rush into further ill-considered reforms. Now the GCSE system is to be put at risk as well as A-levels.

With further reforms for 2010, ministers have diverted attention both from the 2002 debacle and the continuing problems for which they are responsible. Responsibility for the reforms' wider failings is borne by politicians of both the Major and Blair governments, whose decisions proved to be deeply damaging. We urgently need remedial measures and a serious debate on why politicians got these reforms so badly wrong.

Teachers need to confront the failures of the present system, particularly those which suggest that exams are being marked by inexperienced examiners.

If public confidence is not to collapse, we have to make those in power recognise the seriousness of the problems.

Trevor Fisher 49 Lovatt Street, Stafford

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