Pupils gear up for first GCSE in driving

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The Independent Online
The first GCSE exam in driving, complete with questions on road rage and the right gear to use in snow, may start next year. The exam aims to give 16-year-olds a head start in how to drive safely a year before they are allowed to put on their L-plates and get behind the wheel.

It will include questions on the workings of the distributor, why cars threaten the environment, and on how to calculate the insurance premium for an Alfa Romeo, as well as on what to do at the scene of an accident.

The Road User GCSE has been devised by the Southern Examining Group and City and Guilds, and has been sent for approval to government exam advisers.

"GCSE is about preparing young people for life," said George Turnbull of the Southern Examining Group. "The car is a lethal weapon. We teach young people about drug abuse, but we ignore the area which probably kills more people."

In 1994, 2,300 drivers aged 16 to 19 were killed or seriously injured in motor cycle or car accidents. Mr Turnbull also pointed out that in America young people were allowed to drive at an earlier age if they took driver education courses in high school.

The initial response to the idea from students has been positive. During the three weeks since schools were first told of the proposed exam, the board has received more than 300 inquiries.

But Sir Rhodes Boyson, the former Tory education minister, was scathing. "Why not have a GCSE exam in breathing or sleeping? You could have the percentage who snored, the percentage who jump up in the night and the ones who have to sleep upside down. You could also have A-levels in standing up with a starred A for people who could levitate."

The new exam will contain neither coursework nor a practical driving test. In the first of two papers, students will be asked questions similar to those on the Government's new driving test theory paper, which will be set from 1 July. The exam board hopes that those with the Road User GCSE will eventually be exempt from the Government test.

The second paper will be more wide-ranging, asking, for example, how advanced vehicle design can help to prevent injury or how road congestion in a town could be reduced.

The board hopes the exam meets the wishes of Sir Ron Dearing, the Government's chief adviser on exams, to bring together the academic and vocational.

Rosemary Coldwell, of Clarendon House Grammar School in Ramsgate, Kent, said the school hoped to offer the new exam as part of a sixth-form general studies course. "So many of our students get cars on their 17th birthdays and so many of them six weeks later are involved in a traffic accident," she said.

So would you pass the new exam?

Why are drivers advised to move off in second gear

on snow?

What might make the brakes on your vehicle feel a little "spongy"?

Why is a BMW 318tds in a cheaper insurance group than a BMW316i which has a smaller engine?

Explain why battery terminals must be clean and the connections tight.