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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 19:11 GMT
Schools 'to blame' for A-level fiasco
Ron McLone (OCR),  John Kerr (Edexcel) , Kathleen Tattersall (AQA)
The three exam board chiefs faced MPs on Monday
Individual schools were partly to blame for the fiasco over A-level grades this summer, a senior examiner claimed.

The row over grades saw the results of nearly 2,000 AS and A-level entries altered.

Ron McLone
Dr McLone said schools' approach was a major factor
The chief executive of the OCR board, Dr Ron McLone, said the situation could, in part, be explained by a school's level of commitment to the new Curriculum 2000.

Giving evidence to a Commons education select committee inquiry, Dr McLone said further education colleges had had a particularly praise-worthy approach to the A-level changes.

"A lot of the students out there have done very well, a lot of the colleges worked very hard - and there was a demand in some way with Curriculum 2000 that as an organisation you gave commitment to Curriculum 2000," said Dr McLone.

"And there's a good deal of evidence from what we have seen that those organisations that spent time with their students, worked out how they were going to do it over the two years... have actually done very well.

"The colleges, I have to say, some of them in particular have done very well because they planned it - not everyone planned it," he said.

Pilot scheme

The chief executives of all three English exam boards, giving evidence to MPs on Monday evening, admitted the new system was rushed in and a proper pilot scheme would have seen many of this summer's problems avoided.

"There was no pilot - we had some pilots to AS, we had one or two ... at A2, but no consistent pilot at A2," said Dr McLone.

Kathleen Tattersall
Kathleen Tattersall expressed concern about the number of units involved
"In the end of course what actually happened was the pilot of A2.

"I think it is unfortunate that we had no trial done before we made such a major change," said Dr McLone.

"Having piloted material, having exemplar material out in the schools would have made it clearer," said John Kerr, chief executive of Edexcel.

"It clearly was a mistake to launch A2 without doing that."

Kathleen Tattersall, director general of the AQA board, said the number of units involved had proved a pitfall.

"In the early stages we certainly argued for four units not six... and that of course has brought about other issues like examiner recruitment," she said.

Independent watchdog

The exam board chiefs said they would prefer to see a truly independent QCA, responsible to Parliament not to ministers.

And all had argued originally that there should have been a 40% - 60% split in the way AS and A2 exams made up the full A-level.

As it is, the system allocates 50% of the marks to each part - even though the AS-levels are supposed to be relatively easier and the A2s relatively harder than the old A-level.

The Tomlinson inquiry has already identified the problems everyone had in knowing quite what the relative standards should be.

The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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