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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
A-levels 'could be scrapped'
A-level students
Confidence in the current system has been shaken
The A-level system could be replaced with continental-style baccalaureate exams in the wake of the current results crisis, the education secretary said on Sunday.

Estelle Morris said there was agreement that 16 to 18-year-olds needed to follow studies from "a broader curriculum", which could see schools following an international model in the future.

Over time it could become a sort of baccalaureate - it's about change over time

Estelle Morris

Confidence in the exam system has been shaken by allegations that exam boards fixed marks in this year's A-levels to keep grades down.

On BBC's Breakfast with Frost on Sunday, Ms Morris repeated her denial that ministers had ordered the downgrading of exam results.

She said: "We just don't do that. The notion that any of my ministers would say 'the results don't look right, change them', is terrible."

The education secretary said she would wait for an interim report on the grades fiasco - expected on Friday from the expert she has commissioned, Mike Tomlinson - before deciding what action to take.

International example

The idea of a broader-based baccalaureate system is already being trialled in Wales.

The Welsh Assembly designated 19 schools and colleges to take part in a six-year pilot, which started in April.

On the prospect of the rest of the country switching to such a system, Ms Morris told the programme: "When we introduced the A and AS levels we looked at the baccalaureate and it's never really gone off the drawing board."
Estelle Morris
Ms Morris says she will get to the bottom of the results fiasco

"It might happen but it's not going to happen for the youngsters in the lower sixth doing their exams next year.

"Nothing is in stone."

Ms Morris also confirmed that both she and schools minister David Milliband had met the head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) William Stubbs, but said they had not discussed exam results.


We are looking at evidence of bizarre exam results which we believe resulted from manipulation of grading

John Dunford, SHA general secretary

Head teachers will take evidence to a meeting with former chief schools inspector Mike Tomlinson on Monday.

The evidence will be presented by the Secondary Heads Association (SHA), the Girls Schools Association and the Headmasters' Conference.

SHA general secretary John Dunford said: "We are looking at evidence of bizarre exam results which we believe resulted from manipulation of grading and also evidence of QCA involvement."

All three boards were implicated, he claimed, although Edexcel to a lesser extent than the others.

He gave an example of one unnamed pupil who scored As in their modules, apart from one U-grade or fail.

Action

The modules affected have apparently been the coursework units or the "synoptic" papers.

But Mr Dunford declined to go into what evidence had been found to link the QCA to the downgrading of papers.

The education secretary made it clear on Sunday that any individual found to have intervened in the results process could pay with their job.

Ms Morris said: "It would include anybody. I would act that way, but I don't want to get ahead of that report. I will take any action that's needed."

She admitted that "something was not right" with the system, and that it was her task to find out what it was.

"If it's something in the QCA that's not right I will do something about it.

"We will look at the evidence and do whatever needs doing."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Lister
"Another education revolution could be on the way"
Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"We want our 16 to 18-year-olds to have a broader curriculum"
The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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See also:

20 Sep 02 | Mike Baker
19 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
17 Sep 02 | Education
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