Tomlinson test ignored

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Ministers broke promise to consider five key points before rejecting reforms. Warwick Mansell reports

Ministers have admitted that they ignored their own five-point checklist on the Tomlinson reforms for secondary qualifications when rejecting them, The TES has discovered.

The revelation will fuel widespread speculation that ministers rejected Tomlinson for political, rather than educational, reasons.

Charles Clarke, the then Education Secretary, had set up tests similar to the five touchstones that the Treasury is using to judge entry into the euro currency.

Tomlinson set out plans to replace A-levels, GCSEs and vocational exams with a diploma system. But Ruth Kelly, who replaced Mr Clarke, decided against radical reform, introducing a Tomlinson-style diploma only for vocational subjects.

In last July's five-year strategy for children and learners, the Government said it would assess the Tomlinson inquiry against five key tests: excellence; vocational; employability; assessment; and disengagement.

On the day the Tomlinson report was published in October, Mr Clarke told the House of Commons that the white paper in response to Tomlinson would include an assessment of the five tests. However, when the paper was published in February, they were not included.

The TES asked, under the Freedom of Information act, whether the assessment promised by Mr Clarke had ever been carried out. The Department for Education and Skills replied: "An explicit assessment of the (Tomlinson) working group's report against the five tests was not made since the Government decided not to accept all the working group's recommendations."

The response said that the tests had been used to assess the proposals set out in the white paper itself, and that the results of this were set out within particular sections of the paper.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"This is extraordinary. What ministers have done directly contradicts their commitments made in the five-year strategy.

"It confirms that the Government's decision was taken not on the basis of mature reflection and an assessment of Tomlinson's educational merits, but with a general election in mind."

Mr Tomlinson said this week that he thought that the report would have satisfied the five tests, but would not comment on his feelings on the assessment not having been carried out.

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