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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Mixed reaction to exam reform plan
Hannah: "A really good idea"
Head teachers and some pupils have welcomed plans to shake-up the English exam system but not everyone is impressed.

The former chief inspector of England's schools, Mike Tomlinson, says there should be a new school diploma for four different stages, which would eventually replace free-standing A-levels, GCSEs and vocational qualifications.

That has gone down well with head teachers, who had been calling for an overhaul of the exams system for pupils aged between 14 and 19.

They say children are over-tested and welcome Mr Tomlinson's suggestion that the new system would mean fewer exams and more teacher- assessment.


John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "The Tomlinson committee is moving in the direction of the proposals that SHA has been advocating for the last 15 years - a unified framework of qualifications, a modular structure of courses at four levels, improved vocational qualifications, greater planned breadth in the curriculum, and a more sensible assessment system."

Head teachers from independent schools also welcomed the reform proposals.

In a joint statement, their representatives - the Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference and the Girls' Schools Association (GSA) said: "It is important in the next phase that the specialist subjects in the proposed advanced diploma are at least as demanding as the current A-levels and preferably with greater stretch.

Adam would have "run a mile" from compulsory maths
"We are pleased to note the planned reduction in the assessment load and the intention that learners should progress according to ability and irrespective of age."

What about pupils themselves?

Hannah, a sixth-former at Colne Community College in Colchester, liked the proposals.

"I think it's a really good idea to put your extra-curricular activities into a qualification.

"Although we put it on our UCAS forms (for university), you don't get any credit."

But another student, Adam, said he did not think maths should be made compulsory.

"If I was told to do compulsory maths at college, I would have run a mile.

"I'm happy with the subjects I'm doing."


Universities are anxious they should have a say in any changes.

Diana Warwick, the head of Universities UK, which represents the chief executives of universities, said: "We welcome Mike Tomlinson's commitment to pilot changes before they are introduced and to look carefully at links with other parts of the education system, including higher education.

"We also welcome the emphasis on the need for any new diploma qualification to stretch the very brightest candidates and to provide sufficient information about students' performance."

The heads of further education colleges are pleased with the proposals.

Judith Norrington, of the Association of Colleges, said: "We are delighted that Mike Tomlinson has decided to take such a radical look at the future of our education system for young people.

"It cannot be right that at least 10% of 14-16 year olds are not in school and that only half of 16 year olds can achieve the benchmark of five GCSE passes at grades A to C.

"We want everyone to have the chance to study and to pass, as long as they meet the right standard, rather than artificially depress achievement with exclusion approaches such as predetermined pass rates and the disregard of vocational qualifications.

"The new system will enable students to use a wider range of talents in which they can demonstrate success."

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