HC Deb 15 September 2004 vol 424 cc1603-4W
Mr. Hurst

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether he plans to retain archaeology as a GCSE examination subject. [188549]

from (i) white and (ii) other ethnic communities are increasing their level of performance. [188291]

Mr. Stephen Twigg

The Youth Cohort Study has been run by the Department for a number of years and collects information from young people after they have finished compulsory education. The following table shows the percentage of pupils that achieve five or more GCSEs at grade A* to C:

Mr. Charles Clarke

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is regulator of the public examinations system. It oversees the work of the examinations awarding bodies, to ensure that their administration, marking and awarding procedures run smoothly. Awarding bodies are independent organisations and, as such, Ministers have no powers to intervene in their actions.

The QCA does expect awarding bodies to offer a broad portfolio of qualifications, but cannot insist on them offering specific subjects. QCA can, however, insist that the awarding bodies give sufficient notice to centres and give support to centres in finding suitable alternative qualifications. In this instance the QCA felt that appropriate notice had been given by AQA to drop its GCSE Archaeology specification and, considering the fact that most candidates were post-16 (there were only 92 pre-16 candidates for GCSE archaeology in 2003), the AS qualification seemed a suitable alternative.

When Ministers consider the final report of the Working Group on 14–19 Reform we will ensure that any proposals for reform will allow a wide range of qualification areas and subjects to be available to ensure choice and breadth of knowledge for learners.