Private pupils may sit international A levels

In an article in the Times, 14/08/13, Greg Hurst reports that independent schools are considering switching to alternative qualifications to avoid Michael Gove’s controversial A-level reforms. Former HMC Chairman Andrew Grant, St Albans School, and HMC member Ed Elliott, The Perse School are quoted.

Elite private schools are considering switching to alternative qualifications to avoid Michael Gove’s controversial A-level reforms, a headmaster has said.

Andrew Grant, headmaster of St Albans School, said that he was looking seriously at entering his sixth-formers for international A levels. This would enable them to continue to sit AS levels after a year and decide, once they knew their grades, which to do at A level.

Under the Education Secretary’s reforms, A levels will return to their traditional format, with candidates studying for two years before sitting a single set of exams at the end of the course.

AS levels will be “de-coupled” from the A level, with their grades no longer counting towards the full exam.

Mr Grant, who was chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) four years ago, said that many head teachers shared his wish to keep using AS levels.

“I know I am speaking for many of my colleagues in HMC when I say we will look for a way of continuing the AS level system,” he told TES.co.uk. “We at St Albans School are looking very, very seriously at International A levels because we feel there is a tremendous value in the feedback provided by AS levels at the halfway point.”

Ed Elliott, headmaster of The Perse School in Cambridge, said this year that he was considering switching his students to International A levels in some subjects because they would be more “stable” qualifications while British A levels underwent radical change.

International A levels, which are produced by British exam boards for the overseas market, will escape Mr Gove’s changes because the changes apply only to “home” A levels regulated by Ofqual, the exam watchdog.

Most international A levels will also continue to be split into four modules with exams after each, meaning that candidates will sit some of their AS-level or A-level papers in January.

From next year January exams for home AS and A levels will be scrapped and all exams will be taken in the summer, before the new A levels in 2015.

Supporters of the present system say that taking four AS levels allows candidates to drop their weakest after a year and means that they can present their AS grades when applying to university.

Mr Gove says that taking three A levels, with exams at the end, will allow deeper study and better prepare candidates for university.

Click here to read the article © The Times.