Education secretary announces A level reforms in England

Written by Web News Editor on . Posted in News

Michael Gove
The education secretary Michael Gove has outlined proposals to scrap the modular nature of A levels in England, indicating that he wants AS levels to become a standalone qualification and no longer contribute to a full A level. He also proposed re-introducing A level assessment by exam at the end of two years.
In a letter (opens as pdf) to Glenys Stacey, chief executive of the Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulation (Ofqual), Gove set out the reasoning behind the proposed changes, citing a ‘clear dissatisfaction’ with A levels among academics. ‘Mathematicians are concerned that current A level questions are overly structured and encourage a formulaic approach, instead of using more open-ended questions that require advanced problem-solving,’ he wrote.
The education secretary proposed that AS levels should become a standalone qualification; under this system, AS levels would no longer contribute to a full A level, which would become fully linear, with assessment taking place at the end of the course.
‘Moving to a linear A level assessed at the end of two years will address the issues of modularity and resits leading to grade inflation,’ he wrote. ‘This will allow students to develop a better understanding of their subject through the greater maturity that will be developed over two years of study – something that I know teachers believe can be particularly important for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.’
In his letter, Gove also announced that the Russell Group of universities would be advising Ofqual on the content of the A levels most commonly required in university admissions. ‘The involvement of respected academics will help to ensure that the qualifications are designed to equip students for university,’ he said.
Gove claimed that the changes in A levels would ‘restore their reputation’ and proposed that the reformed qualifications be ready for the classroom by 2015.
Although only recently announced, the proposal has already sparked a mixed response. While Kevin Stannard of the Girls’ Day School Trust said that the reforms would ‘put teaching above testing’, Brian Lightman of The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was ‘a classic case of fixing something that isn’t broken’. Teaching unions have also voiced grave doubts about the reforms.
The RSS will be considering the detail of the proposals and provide a response in due course.

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