Although unitary bodies should help cut bureaucracy by allowing schools and colleges to deal with fewer organisations, Martin Cross, who is continuing as chief executive of RSA Examinations Board as well as becoming director general of Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations, expects centres to continue exercising their right to pick and choose. "Most post-16 institutions will continue to use more than one board. Few large organisations use only one supplier of anything," he said. The University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate has about 30 per cent of the GCSE and A-level market, while RSA provides 11 per cent of GNVQs and 20 per cent of NVQs. From next year, all British qualifications offered by UCLES or RSA will come under the umbrella of OCR.
About half of UCLES's revenue, however, comes from overseas, where it is a major provider of English as a foreign language and other international qualifications. These will continue to be offered as UCLES awards.
Michael Halstead is continuing as chief executive of UCLES, which offers GCSEs as the Midland Examining Group. Brian Swift, chief executive of the West Midlands Exam Board, will become the first chief executive of OCR on January 1.
Mr Cross expected OCR's relations with other unitary bodies to be one of "collaborative competition". although Edexcel, AQA and OCR are each bound to try to provide a better service than the other bodies; they also have common interests, including improved assessment methods.
"We are hopeful the creation of QCA will mean some convergence in the regulatory regimes and an overarching certificate covering academic and vocational education," he said.
Both boards have been encouraged by the response of teachers to new units on key skills. The units can be offered alongside other courses, so students taking A-levels, for example, can improve skills such as communication, problem-solving and information technology in the same way as GNVQ students, who are already required to study core skills.
Heather Cameron, key skills co-ordinator at Moseley School, Bir-mingham, said the units helped students become independent learners and would make them more attractive to future employers. She also welcomed the fact that academic and vocational awarding bodies are merging or working more closely together. "It means the left hand is more aware of what the right hand is doing," she said.