Overhaul England’s ‘narrow’ A-levels, says top scientist

England’s A-levels are among the narrowest upper secondary systems in the world and need radical change, the president of the Royal Society will say in a speech on Tuesday. BBC reports.

Nobel prize winner Prof Sir Venki Ramakrishnan wants an independent review of post-16 education, and exams transformed within 10 years.

The government says recent reforms have made A-levels more fit for purpose.

However, Cambridge biologist Sir Venki, who took over as Royal Society president in 2015, believes these changes are just “tinkering”.

Sir Venki notes concerns that these changes have contributed to further narrowing of the A-level curriculum, with many schools dropping AS-levels and opportunities for wider study in coursework being lost.

“If we want our young people to be able to get good jobs, and employers to be able to hire the people they need in the future, we need to make sure our schools and colleges are teaching the skills that will be needed.

“A-levels are not doing that,” he is expected to tell a one-day conference of scientists, teachers, policymakers and business leaders at the Royal Society Business Forum.”

Sir Venki is expected to point out that A-levels have been around since 1951, maintaining their focus on a small number of subjects, but much has changed since.

As a scientist, he says he wants to see everyone studying science and maths to 18, but this should be “alongside subjects like English, history, geography, modern languages and the arts… nor must we forget technical skills”.

The National Education Union has welcomed Sir Venki’s comments, as well as those of Education Select Committee chairman Robert Halfon, who wants ministers to do away with GCSEs altogether and replace A-levels with a mix of academic and vocational subjects.

Read more Overhaul England’s ‘narrow’ A-levels, says top scientist

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