Changes to A-Levels Leave England’s Schools Wondering


High levels of anxiety and uncertainty are permeating English schools and colleges over the Government’s recent reforms of the A-level system. Some changes in the system were introduced stating that AS level marks will not be counted in the final A-level grades from September.

While this caused controversy in educational institutions, the ministers hope the changes will help reduce the number of exams that are taken in sixth forms. They reasoned that the reforms will allow more time for deeper learning.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS chief, urged the universities to revise admissions procedures to make sure no students are disadvantaged because of the new change.

These changes apply to institutes in England only, where AS-levels will be completely separated from A-levels in order to form a separate qualification. The reforms will be effective from September and many new 2-year A-level subjects will be introduced over the next 3 years.

UCAS had reported that sixth-formers will have the option to follow one of about 15 different A-level courses from 2017. This means that universities will have to expect candidates with a diverse range of qualifications to apply in the coming years.

Ms. Curnock Cook mentioned that a study based on survey of around 500 schools and colleges revealed that there are many people who want greater clarity about how all the new courses will be incorporated.

Approximately 66% of the respondents said that they will take standalone AS-level exams. 16% of them said that they will follow the reforms. Most of these private schools and colleges will treat A-levels like it has always been treated.

18% of schools mentioned that they haven’t yet responded, as many of them reasoned that there is lack of clarity and information. There are also some practical challenges which are making it difficult to decide how to proceed.

21% of the schools which were polled stated that they don’t know what their AS and A-level programs will resemble 2 years later when the completely new range of A-level courses will be available.

Ms. Curnock Cook thinks the responses show how anxious the schools are about the changes.

“Responses to this survey paint a picture of a high level of uncertainty and anxiety amongst schools and colleges, and a wide range of responses to the A-level reform. Only half of schools and colleges who responded to the survey are planning to offer AS qualifications in all reformed subjects that they offer from 2015.”

She also discussed how the 15 possible programs that institutions could offer from September 2017 will bring diversity.

“This means that universities and colleges can anticipate a much greater diversity of qualifications held by applicants and they will need to revise their admissions approaches to ensure that no one is disadvantaged as a result of decisions made by their school.”

She added that the schools and colleges are seeking answers from universities regarding how they are planning to manage the changing situation.

01 20, 2015
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