HC Deb 11 April 1986 vol 95 cc197-8W
Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what initiatives Her Majesty's Government have taken since 1979 to improve the examination system in schools.

Mr. Chris Patten

Since 1979, the Government have taken the following initiatives designed to improve the examinations system in schools— in 1983 they established the Secondary Examinations Council as a source of independent and authoritative advice on school examinations which is charged inter alia with the tasks of approving syllabuses and monitoring examination standards; — in March 1983 they announced the introduction from September 1985 of the certificate of pre-vocational education as an additional option in the range of courses preparing young people for the world of work. CPVE is available in both schools and colleges. — in April 1984 they announced their objective to introduce records of achievement for all school leavers by the end of the decade. To that end, they are currently financing nine pilot schemes under the oversight of a national steering committee; — in June 1984 they announced the introduction of the general certificate of secondary education from September 1986 to replace GCE O-level, CSE and joint 16-plus examinations. The new examination system is designed to support the Government's overall objective of raising all pupils' standards of attainment. All syllabuses and examination procedures will comply with nationally agreed criteria which build upon best practice in present examining; — in March 1985 they announced the introduction of advanced supplementary levels designed to broaden the education of students taking A-levels. The first courses will begin in September 1987; — in April 1985 they established the working party on criteria for pre-vocational courses pre-16 under the chairmanship of Mr. R. S. Johnson, director of education. Leeds. It is intended that the resulting criteria will enable SEC to approve and monitor all prevocational and vocationally oriented courses offered to pupils in the compulsory years of secondary education; — in April 1985 they announced that the certificate of extended education and alternative ordinary levels should be replaced by specifically designed GCSE mature syllabuses or, in a few instances, by AS levels where that form of provision is more appropriate; — in March of this year they announced the reform of A-level grading, based upon recommendations from the SEC, designed to resolve the long-standing problems arising from the narrow range of marks spanning grade C. The new system will be used for the first time in summer 1987 and will be fairer than the existing one.