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World at One Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
A level reviews promised
A level students open their results
Many results this year gave no cause for celebration

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, has this morning tried to stem the tide of criticism which has threatened to sweep away the credibility of the exam system in England.

She has given way to calls from all sides to hold an independent inquiry into the work of one of the three examining boards, OCR, which has reported a 150% increase in complaints from students about the A Level grades they were awarded.

She defended the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the QCA, whose own inquiry into the mess is due to be published tomorrow, and made an impassioned attempt to scotch accusations that the Government had applied pressure behind the scenes to have the overall A Level results depressed.

And Mike Tomlinson, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, has been asked to investigate the wider issues of the consistency of A Level standards.

Reaction

The complaints against the OCR examining board and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority which led to the Secretary of State's announcement came from individual schools, the state sector and the private education sector.

Peter Chapman, headteacher of the Hertfordshire comprehensive, Knight's Templar School in Baldock which was one of the first to raise complaints, told The World at One that he welcomed the Government's announcement. But he still had concerns that no explanation had been given for why the situation had come about.

A similarly guarded welcome was given by Kate Griffin, President of the Secondary Heads Association, who said that she would rather see all three English exam boards investigated, rather than just OCR.

And Ed Gould, Chairman of the Headmaster and Headmistresses Conference which represents independent schools agreed - though he admitted that an independent enquiry would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the examination system.

The Secretary of State for Education Estelle Morris told the programme that if the investigation into the A level chaos did find evidence of undue pressure being put on the OCR board by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to downgrade A levels, she would be appalled and would act to remedy the situation.

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