The Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority (QNCA) will bring together the work of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications.
Sir Ron Dearing's review of the 16-19 qualifications framework earlier this year recommended that a single body should oversee both academic and vocational qualifications. He also suggested that any new body might also have responsibility for the curriculum and its assessment.
Mrs Shephard said: 'The creation of a new, single body mirrors the successful merger of the department for education and the employment department. It will build on the best achievements of SCAA and NCVQ. It will also be able to go further: for the first time one organisation will be able to set expectations and standards across the whole spectrum of education and training, from the nursery to workplace training and lifelong learning.'
'I shall look to the QNCA to sustain our drive for high standards in both vocational and academic qualifications and to raise achievement in schools, colleges and throughout people's lifetimes at work. This will help us to meet the National Targets for education and training.
'Such a change needs to have the backing of both the employment and education worlds. That is why during the summer I have been consulting widely on this important issue. I received over 100 responses to the consultation document 'Building the Framework'; over 75% of these were in favour of merging SCAA and NCVQ into a single body. I am convinced that it will have the support it needs to make a success of its work.
'I plan to have the QNCA in place for September 1997. It will then take on from SCAA and NCVQ the task of driving forward the important programmes of work to follow up the recent reports by John Capey and Gordon Beaumont on GNVQs and NVQs, and Sir Ron Dearing's review of the overall qualifications framework.'
'I have written to Sir Ron Dearing, the chairman of SCAA and to Sir Michael Heron, the chairman of NCVQ, informing them of my decision and thanking them for the excellent work both organisations have carried out over the past few years. Their work has been invaluable and will be a firm foundation for the future.
'The two organisations are already working closely together to implement Sir Ron Dearing's recommendations. I am asking them to continue and build on this co-operation to ensure a smooth transitional period.'