The Tomlinson Report is a proposal to radically replace the current G.C.S.E and A-level examination structure, with a four level diploma comprising entry, foundation, intermediate and advanced. The proposal if passed by government is hoped to be implemented in ten years time, though the government hope to start a four-year pilot scheme with the first changes likely to be in 2007.
The reasons for the proposals is to recognise the skills of teenagers right across the board and not just academically. All pupils would still have to pass the basic core skills of English, maths and computing but there would more emphasis on those who want to pursue a non-vocational career such as plumbing or hair and beauty. Pupils will also be able to sit the diploma when they feel they are ready.
On the whole the report has been welcomed by many head teachers, universities and colleges who hope the new diploma will encourage more pupils to stay at school.
Early criticisms of the report are that it is going to ‘kill off’ the current G.C.S.E and A-level examinations, this has been disputed by Tomlinson as the foundation, intermediate and advanced levels would be the equivalent of G.C.S.E, D to G, A-star to C and A-level respectfully. There will be three grades in the equivalent A-level advanced with -A,A+ and A++ being proposed. This is hoped will make the selection process easier for universities when faced with a selection of pupils with A grades. Other criticisms have been that scrapping the exams could leave employers unsure of candidate’s suitability for a job, although they do welcome the plans to drive up basic literacy and numeracy amongst school leavers. There has also been criticism that the proposals are ‘horrendously complicated’ and ‘deeply confusing’ (Smithers A, Professor, 2004, p.1) given that there are already so many different assessments already. Many people believe that a new system is not what is needed there just needs to be work on the existing system. Professor Anthony O’Hear (2004, p.3) believes, “for the sake of our children we need to concentrate on the things that really matter, and which can perfectly well be achieved within the existing framework :better teaching, more rigorous exams, more demanding syllabuses and better vocational courses.”
I think it is fair to say that we do need some system to cater for all pupils and to take into account what their future aspirations might be. I cannot see anywhere if they have asked the pupils taking the exams what they think and how do they think the system could be improved. I think a diploma could work if it is constructed right, it would be a shame to see pupils segregated further which I have seen happen already in everyday life just because they are not academic.
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