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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
UK baccalaureate plans announced
Secondary school pupils
Schools are invited to have their say on the proposed baccalaureate
Plans for a European-style baccalaureate have been announced by an English exam board.

The University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) board plans to offer the new qualification to schools in Britain and abroad.

It is intended as an alternative to A- and AS-levels and could have tougher questions or test critical thinking.

The CIE plans to consult widely on the content before launching elements of the diploma in 2008.

Assessment model

The board said the qualification would be aimed primarily at schools abroad or British schools with an "international outlook".

Ann Puntis, CIE chief executive, said: "CIE's goal is to ensure the development of thinking, well-informed and independent-minded individuals, capable of applying new skills to meet the demands of the modern world."

A spokesman for CIE said around 1,000 schools worldwide took the CIE international A-level each year, but it was not possible to determine how many British schools might opt for the board's baccalaureate.

Former head of Ofsted Mike Tomlinson
Sir Mike Tomlinson proposed a diploma-style system

Elements of the new certificate, including a form of "curriculum extension" - possibly a project or dissertation - may stretch the students to a standard closer to university level, he said.

But he said the new qualification was not necessarily designed to be tougher than existing A-levels.

He said the exam board was seeking a "better assessment model for pupils and universities".

Proposal rejected

Schools which currently opt for the board's A-levels and universities are being consulted on a number of areas: the structure of the programme, subject areas on three levels of attainment, the proposed "curriculum extension" option, and the grading system.

Former head of Ofsted Mike Tomlinson proposed that a diploma system replace the current A-level structure, but this option was rejected by the government.

His proposal also called for pupils to undertake an extended essay, so the brightest were stretched.

Some head teachers argued that as A grades at A-level continue to rise, universities will increasingly struggle to distinguish between the brightest pupils.

Pupils at some British schools - mainly independent ones - already study for the international baccalaureate.

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