Crisis goes much deeper than the actions of one man

Sir William Stubbs' sacking may been the most dramatic moment of the last 24 hours of this summer's A-level marking fiasco.

However, the picture painted in the report by Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector, shows that the crisis over A-levels goes much deeper than the actions of one man.

Sir William, the chairman of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, was sacked by Estelle Morris for the way exam boards perceived he was threatening them to mark down this year's exams.

He told them that – if the pass rate was too high – there would be calls for a public inquiry into how they had marked the exams.

The Secretary of State for Education said his actions had "led to a loss of confidence in the QCA which needs to be resolved to give young people and their parents confidence in reliable A-level results this year and in future years". As a result, she decided to remove him from office. When told of this, he offered his resignation.

However, in the words of Mr Tomlinson, this summer's crisis was an "accident waiting to happen" before Sir William had talked to a single examiner.

The new system, under which AS-levels are taken at the end of the first year of the sixth form and A2s in the second, was introduced too speedily at the behest of ministers. (It was brought in while David Blunkett was Secretary of State for Education and Estelle Morris was his number two – in charge of school standards).

In effect, that puts the political spotlight right back on Ms Morris' competence because what Mr Tomlinson is saying, if you interpret his report bluntly, is that tens of thousands of students are facing their A-levels being regarded today as a result of decisions taken by those two ministers in the last three years of the previous Labour Government.

The buck does not stop there. According to the Tomlinson report, teachers and examiners did not have a clue as to the relative weight they should attach to the two exams – AS and A2s. The QCA is to blame here again. It failed to give exam boards enough information about grade criteria and did not even run a pilot of the A2 units – with the results that examiners had nothing on which to base their judgements this year.

Yesterday Ms Morris accepted responsibility for the way the new exam system had been introduced. However, she said she took pride from the fact the reforms "had transformed what was a narrow sixth-form curriculum into a broader one for youngsters".

The QCA is picking itself up from the floor after the exit of Sir William and pinning its hopes on its new Australian chief executive, Dr Ken Boston, who arrived in the country to take up his post just two weeks ago, to resurrect its tarnished image.

The background that emerged in Mr Tomlinson's report does not give one much confidence that all the mistakes that are in the system will be ironed out in time for next year.

Some changes are inevitable. For instance, the way Sir William seems to have struck the fear of God into the chief examiners and has been interpreted by them as the voice of Government must never happen again.

The best way of ensuring that happens is to break up the QCA. It should never have been both responsible for designing the system and checking on whether it was running smoothly. That created an unhealthy climate in which there was pressure to sweep mistakes or problems under the carpet.

Its regulating role should be hived off to an independent body so that parents regain confidence in the system.

Only two boards look to have reacted to the pressure: the Oxford and Cambridge and RSA board and the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little