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Harder A-levels and boost for IB

A-level candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to face more "stretching" questions, and the chance to be awarded a new A* grade.

Meanwhile state school pupils in England will soon be able to study the International Baccalaureate.

Naturally the Teaching Unions leapt in to offer the Prime Minister's latest proposals a ringing endorsement...

The changes, outlined by Prime Minister Tony Blair in a speech in Birmingham, would be alongside the introduction of vocational Specialised Diplomas.

Teachers' leaders accused him of elitism and sowing confusion.


The government is now agreeing with the QCA in saying all questions should be more open-ended, requiring more thoughtful, detailed answers - and with a new top A* grade above the existing A to E grades.

Courses under the new system would be start in 2008 with the first of the new A*s being awarded in 2010.


The government in England is also providing £2.5m so every local authority has at least one centre offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma.

Although it has traditionally been the preserve of the independent sector, 46 of the 76 schools now offering the IB are in the state sector, in 32 local authorities.

The government funding will mean about 100 more such centres, the education department said - mainly sixth form colleges.

The IB is regarded as being more broadly based than A-levels in three or four specific subjects.

It involves six main subjects being studied over two years, chosen from literature, a second language, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, mathematics and computer sciences and the arts.


The leader of the NASUWT teachers' union, Chris Keates, said it would now be a case of "Baccalaureate for the best, Diplomas for the rest".

She added: "It is becoming increasingly evident that Number 10 is bewitched by the independent sector and is seeking to mimic its most unattractive feature - elitism."

Link: BBC Education.

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