Inquiry chief 'disappointed by cautious reform package'

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The Independent Online

The man who headed the Government's inquiry into exam reforms said he was "disappointed" with the White Paper.

Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former chief schools inspector, said it risked "emphasising the distinction between the vocational and the academic" by refusing to back his plan for an overarching diploma to replace the GCSE and A-level system. And he said the package did not go far enough in trying to foster "scholarship" in A-levels. His original proposals recommended splitting A grades into three - with a new A* and A** grade - to help universities select the brightest pupils for popular courses.

Sir Mike said he was pleased with the plans to strengthen standards in the basics - by insisting pupils that had mastered basic functional literacy and numeracy before they could be given a C grade at GCSE in English or maths.

He was also glad that ministers were starting a review of the curriculum for pupils aged 11 to 14. But he felt the White Paper failed to do anything to help students struggling to get top-grade passes at GCSE. A diploma had been proposed but this was "likely to be regarded as no more than a wrap around a series of individual qualifications", he said.

Sir Mike added: "While the White Paper leaves one or two doors open, I had hoped that the Government would have gone further on the need for a united qualifications framework."

He concluded: "I remain disappointed that at this time the Government has decided not to implement the proposals in full." He said he hoped the promised review of whether to introduce an over-arching diploma in 2008 "provides time for the case for further, more radical, reform to be argued".