Shephard to consider cutting syllabuses

9th December 1994 at 00:00
Proposals to slash the number of school examination syllabuses in an effort to boost standards are due to be sent to the Education Secretary next week.

Government advisers, who have been talking to exam group officials about three key options for change, struck a compromise on Tuesday. Two options - retaining the present system currently dominated by four exam boards or replacing it with a single board - have been thrown out in favour of reducing the number of syllabuses.

Teachers in England can currently choose from 27 mathematics syllabuses, 54 science courses, and 141 variations on syllabuses involving technology.

This week's recommendation means teachers' choices are likely to be reduced, but the move will not necessarily be unwelcome.

The exam groups themselves accept the need for rationalisation and many teachers are likely to approve of a recommendation which will lighten their workload, even if it restricts their choice.

Sir Ron Dearing announced plans to consider the large number of syllabuses during his national curriculum review, and the Government has become increasingly concerned to ensure comparable standards between exam groups Education Secretary Gillian Shephard announced an investigation in September into why two groups, London Examinations and the Southern Examining Group (SEG), awarded more grade Bs in GCSE maths and combined science this year than their competitors.

SEG said at the time that a national rule change allowed pupils who had been entered for the middle-tier paper to be awarded grade Bs. Last year, they were only allowed a grade C even if they got 100 per cent. Entries for SEG maths increased by a third this year.

SCAA's recommendation coincides with a study of A-level grades across the GCE boards by the Curriculum, Evaluation and Management Centre at Newcastle University. It shows that grades across A-level boards "were commendably equivalent".

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