Kieran McLaughlin letter to the Independent: pupils suffering over A-level uncertainty

The Independent, 05/12/14, HMC member Kieran McLaughlin, Headmaster of Durham School writes about pupils suffering over A-level uncertainty.

MP Graham Stuart’s contribution to the debate surrounding A-level reform has added further confusion to the educational landscape (“Senior Tory’s U-turn on proposal to scrap AS-levels, 4 December).

The situation we find ourselves in is somewhere between Pythonesque and Kafkaesque; during the course of one night next May, the entire educational landscape will be shaped. As of now, a Labour government will retain A-levels in their current form, whereas a Conservative government will implement reform for some subjects but not others, against the advice of teachers, universities and now, it seems, their own party.

Right now, we have pupils and parents in the position of choosing A-levels without knowing what they will look like; teachers choosing between syllabuses that may not come into existence, and careers staff who are unable to give proper guidance on how universities will go about admitting youngsters in less than two years’ time.

Next year’s election is unlikely to be won or lost on A-level reform. But – though it sounds melodramatic to say it – we are playing politics with pupils’ futures. It is in the national interest to remove the chaos and uncertainty of the current position.

Can both parties and Ofqual not come to a sensible arrangement and agree on a common timetable for A-level reform so that pupils and teachers can plan for the future properly?

Kieran McLaughlin
Headmaster, Durham School