Malcolm Trobe: ‘A-level reform will not restore academic rigour’

Writing in the Telegraph, the ASCL’s Malcolm Trobe argues that decoupling A-levels and AS levels is a mistake that will not help restore academic rigour.

…There are several disadvantages to the new system. The “decoupling” of A-levels and AS-levels, introduced by former Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is seen as a retrograde step by almost everybody in the education world, including many Russell Group universities. 

AS-levels have been a brilliant way of motivating young people. They have acted as a stepping stone during the two years of sixth form, giving young people an achievement to latch on to which helps propel them towards their ultimate goal. 

In particular, this has helped encourage students who lack confidence. AS-levels have given them a qualification in the bag, upon which they can build in their A2 exams.

Now, that stepping stone is being removed. A-levels will return to being an all-or-nothing exam as they were before “Curriculum 2000″…

AS-levels have provided curriculum breadth and also allowed young people to make the best choices for their A2 exams. It has meant they can take an extra subject, and decide at the end of their first year what they want to drop and what they want to pursue…

More at: ‘A-level reform will not restore academic rigour’


Do you agree with Malcolm Trobe’s opposition to the decoupling of A-levels and AS levels or can you see some merit in the move? 

Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy and Secondary.


  1. niallsmith1970

    SchoolsImprove Most schools & colleges that I know are keeping AS anyway. Decoupling means that a slip up at AS doesn’t ruin A2 result. 1/2

  2. niallsmith1970

    SchoolsImprove 2/2 Also, the new system is a welcome move away from the hamster wheel of Y12 modules and retakes. More time for teaching.

  3. birch_david

    niallsmith1970 SchoolsImprove Agree about retakes but reduction of cw will intensify pressure at A2 and favour those with pure exam skills

  4. niallsmith1970

    birch_david SchoolsImprove Good point about coursework. Personally, I favour c. 30% coursework. It will be back, I am sure!

  5. birch_david

    niallsmith1970 SchoolsImprove I certainly hope so! A Levels need to test a wider range of skills to prepare students for their next step

  6. birch_david

    niallsmith1970 SchoolsImprove and thanks for the follow and congratulations on your school’s excellent results!

  7. paulbevis56

    One, I believe there to be little evidence that the opportunity to take AS levels broadened the subject diet as was intended. Secondly the longer run at exams to Year 13 will allow more opportunity for reflective learning. Thirdly and possibly most importantly, why would we think that a 1950s style written exam assesses, or allows students to demonstrate the learning skills and ability to research, critically select and use information in a problem solving and analytical way that is now required.

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