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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February 2005, 13:06 GMT
Scrap A-levels says Ofsted chief
A-levels should be completely replaced by the diploma, says Ofsted chief
A-levels and GCSEs should disappear in the far-reaching shake-up of England's secondary school curriculum, says Ofsted chief David Bell.

The chief inspector for schools in England said there was a "symbolic" need for a name change.

This would be a "great opportunity" to show that there was a "sea-change" in education, he added.

But the complete scrapping of the A-level "gold standard" has already been opposed by the prime minister.

The proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the secondary school exam system, with the introduction of a new diploma qualification, have been drawn up by former Ofsted chief, Mike Tomlinson.

'Root and branch'

His successor Mr Bell has now thrown his weight behind a root and branch reform, including completely replacing the existing A-level and GCSEs.

There had been suggestions that there could be a political compromise over this change, with A-levels being built into the proposed diploma, as separate units within a wider structure.

And in a speech to business leaders in October, Tony Blair appeared to rule out the complete scrapping of the qualifications

David Bell
David Bell calls for a symbolic removal of the A-level name

The official response from the education secretary, which will decide on the future of A-levels, is expected later this month.

Speaking at the launch of Ofsted's annual report, Mr Bell said the debate about the retention or scrapping of A-levels and GCSEs was being blurred by discussions about whether the names should be kept.

But he made clear that he was in favour of taking the clear-cut step of getting rid of the names and the structure of the exams.

"There's probably something symbolic about GCSEs and A-levels. But one of the reasons why I'm so strongly in favour of these terms disappearing over time is that it's good for the symbols of change to be seen right across the system," said Mr Bell.

"If we don't say this is a sea-change in education, we will miss a great opportunity."

He also reiterated that much of the material taught within the qualifications would continue.

"Mike Tomlinson is very clear in the report that much of the body of content that underpins GCSEs and A-levels currently would carry forward into the new system," said Mr Bell.

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