A-levels to vanish in Labour reforms

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The Independent Online
LABOUR will outline plans this week to abolish the GCE A-level and replace it with a new examination which will force all students to take some vocational qualifications, writes Stephen Castle.

The party's education spokesperson, Ann Taylor, will give details of the proposals in a document which will also specify that nursery provision will be the party's first priority in education policy.

Under the new Labour proposals A-levels will be replaced by a General Certificate of Further Education, which will build on the GCSE currently taken by 16-year-olds. Unlike A-levels, students will not be given awards subject by subject. Instead, they will get the certificate by building up a number of 'credits' from a range of subject areas.

Although the party will consult on the correct mix of credits, the document will specify that in addition to academic subjects, at least one vocational and one information technology credit will be needed to achieve a pass. Existing vocational qualifications will count towards the new certificate as will success in the GCSE itself.

The move, backed by the new Labour leader, Tony Blair, in a speech earlier this month, is likely to be popular among teachers and university vice- chancellors. Educationalists believe that British children lag behind their continental rivals because of the narrowness of their curriculum.

Ms Taylor's document will also urge local authorities to set targets for increasing nursery places and outline plans to change the status of grant maintained (opted-out) schools. These schools are, however, unlikely to be returned to local authorities. Instead Labour will consult on a range of bodies, including Community Education Forums, to act as umbrella bodies for schools.