‘Damaging’ A-level reform threatens to reverse maths uptake, say advisers

The Guardian is reporting that the government’s own advisers on A-level reform have warned that scrapping the AS-level could “seriously damage” the uptake of mathematics…

…In a letter to the education secretary Nicky Morgan, the A-level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), which is made up of academics representing leading universities, said the return to the traditional A-level, with examinations only taken at the end of a two-year course, could threaten the recovery in numbers which this year has seen maths overtake English as the most popular A-level for the first time.

Professor Richard Craster, who is chair of the board’s maths panel and professor of applied maths at Imperial College London, warned in the letter that a decrease in the uptake of A-level maths, particularly further maths, would mean that disadvantaged students had less chance of getting into the “very best universities”.

His comments are a major embarrassment to the government, which set up the board in 2013 to guide its exam watchdog, Ofqual, on what the new curriculum should look like. The structure of the exams was outside the board’s remit, but such was the strength of feeling among the panel that its “serious concerns” about the loss of the AS-level were put in a letter to Gove which said “serious damage” would be done to “the uptake across maths A-level” unless time was given for a “staged approach with piloting”.

The letter continued: “Although we recognise that the government plans to move to linearity in all A-level subjects, this is a serious concern for the maths community. It could well be that maths is not best served by a strictly linear syllabus.”

The board also criticised plans for the standalone AS in further maths to be worth just 40% of an A-level in university entry requirement points, describing it as “yet another serious concern”.

It raised fears that proposed changes to the maths GCSE could also add to the “downward pressure on student uptake of A-level, particularly from the state sector”.

Maths A-level has seen a major resurgence under the two-part A-level, which will be scrapped from 2017. Numbers of students going on to study the subject beyond GCSE have risen from 52,788 in 2004, just after the introduction of the AS-level, to 88,816 this year. The numbers taking A-level further maths has risen by 152% over the same period. Teachers, academics and exam boards attribute much of the rise to the “stepping stone” effect of the AS-level…

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Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This is absolutely correct – all the exam reforms regarding maths will only put more young people off the subject

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