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The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has developed plans for a new qualification that will form part of A-level qualifications and specialized diplomas.

The qualification takes the form of an extended project, undertaken by the student over a longer period of time on a subject or issue of their choosing. The project is designed to encourage students to follow their own interests and aspirations and produce an independent and in-depth piece of work, while also developing their skills in research, presentation and reasoning.

The White Paper

The qualification is one of the results on the recent Department for Education and Skills (DfES) White Paper on Education for 14-19 yr olds. Presently, a consultation is being held on the draft, assessment and criteria requirements, and the project is expected to be piloted between September 2006 and summer 2008. The project has been designed to be especially flexible, to allow for the range of subjects and approaches that students may take, which is an absolutely integral part of this project if it is to work. Anything less than near-total freedom of choice will result in the project being no different to existing coursework formats.

The idea is that by offering students the chance to pursue subjects that are relevant to them, they will be more enthused and motivated towards the work, resulting in a better attitude to education and more successful results. The consultation for the project has not neglected the need for maintaining standards within the new project; assessments must be flexible enough to adapt to each case, but must still be "rigorous" enough to make the project an acknowledgeable part of the course, not just the "easy option"; it should be a chance for students to develop their own interests and recognize their own strengths for themselves, rather than rely on inexplicable grades or loathed exams to determine, at the last minute, what they will do in the future.

All About Choices

At the least, with this freedom of choice and opportunity to expand within themselves, students will be in a far better position to make choices about their future, such as higher education courses or possible vocations, rather than relying on the ambiguity and time-pressures that exam results present. It will also give some students the chance to prove themselves where before they have been unable, perhaps due to the concentration of institutions on subjects that the students may have no interest in or enthusiasm for.

Students welcome all introductions of personal choice and freedom and will no doubt take up the project with enough enthusiasm and success to silence the miserable voices of those that distrust the ability of students to voluntarily participate in education.

Daniel Wallis

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