One report, two explanations, millions of confused pupils

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The Independent Online

What is Tomlinson proposing?

What is Tomlinson proposing?

He wants a set of new diplomas to replace the GCSE and A-level exam systems. They would have better vocational options and harder questions for the brightest.

So what does the Government say?

At first ministers were enthusiastic: Charles Clarke called Tomlinson's preliminary ideas "the biggest reform of qualifications in any of our lifetimes". But now they appear to have got cold feet.

What are they worried about?

Some of the more radical ideas: scrapping the "gold standard" A-level system, replacing some exams with teacher assessment and changing the way exam league tables are compiled could lead to accusations of dumbing down.

Could the future of A-levels turn into an election issue?

Perhaps sensing there may be votes in it, the Tories abandoned their general support for Tomlinson and pledged to save the A-level. They have also promised to return to the days when only a set proportion of students were allowed to achieve the highest grades.

Would Mr Tomlinson's proposals spell the end of A-levels and GCSEs?

Yes and no. Tomlinson wants the GCSE, AS- and A-level "brands" to disappear, arguing that keeping the old names would damage the integrity of the new diploma. However, the "building blocks" of his new diploma would probably derive from the existing qualifications.

What does Tomlinson say about keeping the terms A-levels and GCSEs?

"If you kept the names it would deny the fact that there is an integrity in the diploma. This is a very subtle point but it is an important one."

What does Tony Blair say?

"GCSEs and A-levels will stay; so will externally marked exams."

What does David Miliband, the Schools minister, say?

"Mike says absolutely clearly that the A-level and the GCSE will be reported independently on the transcript, there for all to see."

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