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Top exam watchdog staff told 're-apply'

Senior managers at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority face job losses in a shake-up that threatens educationists. Julie Henry reports

SENIOR managers at the Government's exam watchdog have been told they will have to re-apply for their jobs.

A root-and-branch reorganisation of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been ordered by chief executive Ken Boston, who says it cannot remain "unfocused and complacent".

Forty-two heads of division and principal managers have received a letter from Mr Boston outlining an overhaul of the pound;60 million regulator. The news leaves employees in the top two tiers of the organisation unsure of their future.

The move, affecting staff in the pound;40,000 to pound;70,000 pay bracket, is an attempt by the QCA head to bring in new blood. However, others have said that the ensuing turmoil is the last thing the QCA needs after the A-level furore last year.

"The organisation has taken a real battering recently. This shake-up will demoralise it even further. It is also risky taking any action in the run up to the summer exams that could take people's eyes off the ball," said one.

The re-structuring will do away with the current divisions, such as "assessment" and "curriculum", and replace them with departments such as exams and testing, general qualifications, vocational qualifications and external relations.

One insider said the radical reorganisation meant the days of the educationist as a senior manager at the QCA were numbered, heralding the age of the "supermanager".

Adverts for the new post of exam manager indicate that knowledge of systems analysis is more important than knowledge of the exam system.

The reorganisation could also mean that national tests are contracted out but not until 2004. The Government's recent review of the QCA's functions suggested hiving off assessment.

Retirements, resignations and redundancies are on the cards. One insider said: "Some people have been told that not everyone will get their jobs back."

The lowest point in the QCA's five-year history came last year when the A-level system was in crisis over allegations of grade fixing.

The subsequent inquiry by Mike Tomlinson blamed the QCA for failing to establish the standard of the new one-year AS and the A2 qualifications. Sir William Stubbs, the QCA chairman and acting chief executive, was sacked.

Mr Boston told The TES that the 600-strong QCA had to re-establish its credentials, hence the re-organisation.

"The existing structure simply does not achieve the goals we have been set. The QCA has to be conspicuous and recruit the very best, although a substantial number of people will come from within the internationally renowned talent of our own organisations."

He said the summer exams were the top priority and that an enormous amount of time had been spent assessing the risk of change.

"There is more risk involved in not reinventing the QCA than in allowing it to stay its own complacent, unfocused self."

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