Gove heralds return of the traditional A level

A levels are to return to their traditional structure as a single qualification with exams after two years of study, Michael Gove announced today. This is from the Times…

AS levels will become separate, stand-alone qualifications, which teenagers can choose to study over one or two years with a shorter course but at the same standard as an AS level.

Teenagers will begin studying the redesigned A levels in September 2015 and sit their first end-of-course exams in the summer of 2017. This is a year later than originally planned.

It means that universities will no longer be able to make admission offers to prospective students based on their AS level grades or marks at 16 or 17 and will rely more heavily on teachers’ recommendations, personal statements and GCSE results.

Mr Gove also said that the Russell Group of 24 leading research universities will create an advisory body to advise the exams regulator on the content of the new A levels, to ensure they are satisfied that these are sufficiently stretching.

The announcement by the Education Secretary, in a letter to the exams watchdog Ofqual, provoked criticism that he had overruled widespread calls to keep the current two-part structure of A levels.

It is a further blow to Ofqual, whose leaders had made clear privately that they did not share Mr Gove’s view that AS levels were in need of adjustment rather than radical repair. Ofqual has also raised grave concerns on his plans to replace GCSEs.

Its own consultation on A level reform, published in November last year, found strong support for AS levels as a part of an A-level course although it endorsed the case for scrapping mid-course exams in favour of a single set of summer exams.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is disappointing that this has ignored the overwhelming views of the teaching profession, academics, employers and universities to retain the link between AS and A level. AS provides an opportunity for students to take a fourth subject and decide at the end of year 12 which three to specialise in.”

A spokesman for the AWQA exam board echoed this, saying: “The majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation on A-level reform, including AQA, said that they valued the AS as part of the overall A-level qualification.

“We are therefore disappointed that it will become a stand-alone qualification and the benefits it has provided in supporting progression and the study of a broader curriculum may be lost.”

At present teenagers begin sixth-form study by choosing to study a mix of AS levels, typically in four subjects, for which they sit a series of exams in their first year of sixth form.

They then decide which subjects to continue with for their second year of sixth form, known as an A2 course, to complete a full A level. Most teenagers drop one AS level and sit full A levels in three subjects.

The new system means that from 2015, teenagers will decide from the outset which three subject, or occasionally more, they want to study for full A levels.

They could also pick another subject to study at AS level and will probably have an additional option of a two year course in mathemetical problem solving.

In his letter to Ofqual, Mr Gove said he had concluded that “the case for a fully linear A level is compelling”.

More at:  Gove heralds return of the traditional A level (subscription required) 

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