Changes to A-Level Examinations Set for 2015

by Beth Willmot

The education secretary Michael Gove, announced yesterday the new plans for A-Level and AS-Level courses. The new system, to be implemented by 2015, will introduce A-Levels as non-modular, two-year courses. Exams are to now be taken at the end of these two years, as opposed to regular assessments throughout the course.

AS-Levels will still remain; however will not act as a stepping stone to a two-year A-Level. Instead they will be stand-alone qualifications, taken at the end of either the first or second year.

A further change to the system is the level of involvement from leading Universities. When the new system is instigated, Russell group Universities are to contribute significantly more to the course content and examination methods; as a means of ensuring education standards are met and maintained.

In a statement, Gove claimed that with the current system, there was “too much assessment, too little learning”. In a letter written to exam regulator Ofqual, Gove argued that A-Level students were not developing a “deep understanding” of their chosen subjects, a claim supported by education Minister Liz Truss.

“Pupils spend too much time thinking about exams and re-sits of exams, encouraging a ‘learn and forget’ approach to studying,” the minister said. She claimed that the new system would prevent pupils from focusing on examinations almost immediately after starting on their courses, and instead allow for more time to be spent focusing on learning the subject itself.

However these changes have not been well received by many, and have already received a great deal of criticism. The introduction of the new A-Level system is set to coincide with planned changes to GCSE’s, which are due to be replaced with the new Ebacc qualification in 2015. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said “2015 looks set to be the year when everything changes in schools and for young people with both GCSEs and A-levels being replaced or altered. This is an unmanageable level of change which could lead to a collapse of the system.”

Further disapproval has been received from Cambridge University, who has urged Gove to reverse his decision: “The University of Cambridge opposes the deletion of AS examinations at the end of year 12. This change is unnecessary and, if implemented, will jeopardise over a decade’s progress towards fairer access to the University of Cambridge.

“AS is the most reliable indicator available of an applicant’s potential to thrive at Cambridge. Using them in our admissions process has enabled us recently to achieve the highest levels of state-sector participation in the university in over 30 years.”

“Year 12 results are especially useful in giving talented students from low-participation backgrounds the confidence to apply to highly selective universities.”

Meanwhile, the Russell Group of 24 leading universities has set out the list of subject areas to be considered by its new advisory body on A-levels. These will cover the exams most often demanded for entry to university: mathematics and further mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages.

For now it seems these changes will come about by 2015, despite receiving such criticism, and will be implemented even if the Conservatives lose the next election. At the moment it is yet unclear as to what Gove plans for coursework, and whether or not this will remain an integral part of A-Level qualifications, or will be scrapped along with modular examinations.




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