HL Deb 10 March 1983 vol 440 cc320-1

3.3 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what they are doing to encourage the various examination boards for CSE, O-Level, and A-Level examinations to ensure the maximum common ground between their syllabuses in the interest of pupils who have to move to different parts of the country during their courses.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, the GCE boards are making progress towards agreeing common cores for A-Level syllabuses in a number of subjects; and the GCE and CSE boards are collaborating in the preparation of national criteria for examinations at 16-plus. Both those initiatives would help to meet the needs of mobile candidates.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister the Leader of the House for that interesting and helpful reply. May I ask her whether there are 22 examination boards and how the standards vary?

Baroness Young

My Lords, there are a number both of GCE and CSE boards. The object of this exercise is that national criteria will be agreed. On each new regional examining board there will be representatives both of the GCE and CSE boards. The object of this exercise is to agree national criteria which will help to eliminate variations of syllabuses from one board to another, where those exist.

Baroness David

My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that once one examination is fixed on—we have been waiting for that for a very long time—that will ease the problem, because at least there will be only one examination at 16-plus for everybody? Will she agree further that this whole problem will be resolved if there is no examination at 16-plus and a new system of profiles and assessment is taken up?

Baroness Young

My Lords, on the first half of the noble Baroness's question, I can confirm that so far proposals for 14 subjects have been submitted to the Secretaries of State. This is on the subject of national criteria. A preliminary response to the first three of these in physics, French and history will be made shortly. On the second point, I would not agree with her, because the Government believe that there is an important role for national examinations.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in addition to the reason given by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, in her Question for achieving a degree of uniformity in this matter, there is the further important reason that when young people are seeking employment overseas the people overseas should know exactly what these certificates stand for? Otherwise, if the system that we have here is too variable, there will be a lack of credibility in the certificates.

Baroness Young

Yes, my Lords. My noble friend makes a very important point. One of the objectives, of course, of the national criteria is to eliminate some of the differences in the syllabuses as they occur today.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell the House whether any further consideration has been given to the idea of introducing an I-level or intermediate level to run in parallel to the A-level?

Baroness Young

My Lords, that is a separate point, and if the noble Lord would care to put down a Question on it I would be glad to answer it.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, may I just ask the Leader of the House whether a bright child at the age of 15 will be able to take the 16-plus examination, or will the examination only be for children who are 16 and over?

Baroness Young

My Lords, to the best of my knowledge there is no restriction on the age at which a child can take the examination. It would of course depend on the child following the complete course before sitting the examination.