Thursday, July 9, 1998 Published at 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Experts to check exam standards
Standards will be subject to independent expert analysis
New moves to safeguard exam standards in England have been announced, weeks before this year's A level and GCSE results are due.
Every year, traditionalists highlight improving results as proof that A levels and GCSEs are getting easier, while teachers and exam boards say they are the result of rising standards.
Now the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is to set up panels of independent experts to assess the results of regular reviews of each subject.
The findings of the first of the authority's subject reviews will be published later this year. They will cover French, geography, physical education and religious studies at GCSE, and German, history, physics and government and politics at A level.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said the independent panels of experts would advise on the "implications" of the reviews.
The authority's chief executive, Nick Tate, said: "The QCA's systematic work in this area, guided by advice from the new high-powered independent panels, will help us keep GCSE and A-level standards consistently high across different exam boards, and from year to year."
An inquiry into exam standards two years ago failed to find any evidence that exams had got easier over the preceding 20 years. But it was hampered by incomplete records of past exam papers, and failed to end the annual argument over so-called "grade inflation".
The inquiry report, Standards over Time, recommended the setting up of panels of experts to oversee subject checks.
Last year, 87.1% of entries were awarded a pass at A-level, up from 69% in 1975, while a record 54.4% of entries won top-grade GCSE passes.