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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 12:54 GMT
Baccalaureate could replace A-levels
A-level exam
There are no promises about keeping the A-level
A-levels could be replaced by an "English baccalaureate" in a shake-up of the secondary school system, say education ministers.

"We're opening the door to long-term reforms that could be the most significant since 1944," said the School Standards Minister, David Miliband.

Wider options in work-related subjects
Intended to re-motivate disaffected teenagers
Curriculum cut back to make space for vocational subjects
Modern languages and ICT optional
Aiming to reduce pupils leaving at 16

The suggestion of a new qualifications system was made alongside an overhaul of the curriculum, which will see a much greater role for vocational training.

Teenagers who are not motivated by academic subjects will be able to concentrate on work-related lessons.

But any introduction of a baccalaureate system would be unlikely to take place this decade.

"It would be more likely to be at the end of the next Parliament and not this one," said Mr Miliband.

Baccalaureate qualifications usually represent achievement across a wide range of study - as opposed to A-levels, which reflect achievement in an individual subject.

At the unveiling of the new-look curriculum, the government announced a working group to study the benefits of moving to a baccalaureate system.


The working group, under former chief inspector Mike Tomlinson, will examine how a broader-based, baccalaureate system could be introduced.

Sensitive to accusations that this would be another form of Europeanisation, the Education Secretary Charles Clarke emphasised that they would be seeking a distinctively English qualifications system.

He also promised that the government would seek a consensus on the development of a new form of qualification.

But neither Mr Clarke or Mr Miliband would rule out the end of A-levels.

Mr Tomlinson said that A-levels had replaced a previous exam system - and he said it would be "illogical" to think that the A-levels in turn could not be removed.


But he also suggested that it would be possible for a baccalaureate to incorporate elements of the present exam system.

Before adopting any new qualifications, it would also be necessary to ensure their credibility with employers and higher education, said Mr Miliband.

The Conservatives highlighted the need for stability after the upheaval of this year's disputed A-level results.

"The government has now condemned A-levels to a prolonged period of uncertainty," said the Shadow Education Secretary, Damian Green.

"Our initial aim is to restore confidence in the A-level which is why we suggested a simple system without AS-levels," he said.

"This would also cut down the number of exams teenagers would have to take. '"

Main proposals

Other changes

Analysis: Mike Baker
See also:

23 Sep 02 | Wales
10 Mar 00 | Unions 2000
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