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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 12:17 GMT
Confusion over A-level standards
writing
There is still concern for next summer's exams
Teachers are still confused as to what standard is required for the new AS and A-levels, head teachers have warned.

Giving evidence to the Commons Education Select Committee, heads said there were many unresolved issues surrounding this year's debacle over A-level grades.

Tony Neal
Mr Neal's school is still receiving details of altered script grades
Tony Neal - head of De Aston School in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire and representing the Secondary Heads Association - told MPs his school, even now, was receiving details of upgrades.

"Clarity on standards is absolutely at the heart of getting this right and we still don't have that clarity," said Mr Neal.

"There is an urgent need for that to be defined because teachers are still in the dark about where the A2 standard is going to be for this coming year," he said.

Edward Gould, head of Marlborough College and chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference said this year's problems could be attributed to the fact that no standard was set.

"There was a problem in that the standard required for A2s was not defined and there was no clarification in terms of how AS-levels plus A2s equals an A-level," said Mr Gould.

"There was confusion therefore over how new A-level matched the legacy A-level."

Watchdog's responsibility

Mr Gould and Mr Neal said the role of the exams watchdog - the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) - should be more clearly understood in terms of setting standards.

Edward Gould
Ed Gould: Angry over OCR's intervention over standards
"The standard is set by QCA, therefore I don't think it was [OCR chief executive] Ron McLone's job to set the standard for the candidates sitting OCR.

"It was QCA's job and they had to monitor and regulate that standard and that is where things must be put right in future so there is a parity of standard across boards," said Mr Gould.

Mr Gould said that, with no clear standard set and in the absence of a pilot scheme and exemplar material sent to schools, teachers should have been widely consulted.

"The best thing you had in my view was the judgement of teachers... particularly in coursework."

Mr Neal added: "There should not have been a difficulty about setting the A2 standard - that standard should have been in line with the legacy A-level standard."

College's content

Colleges though seemed more content with the new Curriculum 2000, echoing the views of OCR boss Ron McLone, who told the same committee of MPs last week that colleges had shown more commitment to the new exams.

Neil Hopkins
Mr Hopkins said the new exams were introduced too quickly
Neil Hopkins from Peter Symons College, Winchester and representing the Association of Colleges told the Education Select Committee that the vast majority of the awards given this year to college candidates were correct.

Mr Hopkins said while the news AS-levels and A2s were introduced too quickly, the problems were "not that extreme".

"We worked very very hard, out there training everyday without having seen the track, if you like... we keep in constant with dialogue with... we encouraged our staff to become examiners," said Mr Hopkins.

But he agreed that the role of the QCA must be more clearly defined.

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 ON THIS STORY
Edward Gould, head of Marlborough College
"There was a problem in that the standard required for A2s was not defined"
The alleged A-level grades manipulation

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28 Oct 02 | Education
21 Oct 02 | Education
31 Oct 02 | Education
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