Leading article: A-level reform is needed now

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The Independent Online

The development stems from the Government's decision to reject the main recommendations for reforming A-levels put forward by former chief schools inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson. He wanted a new diploma to replace the existing A-level and GCSE system to cover both academic and vocational qualifications, a recommendation that the Government rejected. The Government said it would review its decision in 2008. The best outcome, we believe, would be if ministers did a U-turn. If they don't, we are left with a segregated exams system or the QCA recognising the new Cambridge Pre-U - as it is unappetisingly called. A real marketplace would open up with schools being free to choose between the new exam, A-levels or the International Baccalaureate. In the latter scenario, the Prime Minister could not have done better than Margaret Thatcher in turning education into a marketplace if he had tried. Perhaps he did.

We understand that Sir Mike has been co-opted as an adviser on to the Conservatives' public services forum to help plan policy. He may not be able to persuade them of the merits of his original recommendations. But he might convince them to embrace the Cambridge Pre-U as a replacement for A-levels. That would avoid a segregated education system and give universities an examination to stretch the most able pupils without making them choose from a vast number of pupils - all with three A grades at A-level.