In the December 2012 issue of Independent Schools Magazine, Kevin Fear, Head of Nottingham High School gives his verdict on A-level changes.
“I broadly welcome this first stage of announcements on A Level reform although it is clear that there is still much for the government to ponder. The removal of January modules will mean that more teaching time is available and the disruption to the start of the Easter term is avoided. I hope that the government will also consider moving AS examinations in the summer until after the A2 examinations as this too would maximise teaching time for students in the first year of the Sixth form.
The removal of the opportunity to resit examinations in January is a mixed blessing. It will help to end the mindset that there is always another chance to improve things but it will mean that a long time will have passed before the students get the opportunity the following summer to do their one resit. As HMC have recently suggested in their report into the failings of the current examination system, there are real concerns about the quality of marking and also the appeals system and thus we must remember that sometimes candidates have to resit in order to get justice with respect to their marks and thus this delay does have its drawbacks.
Like most people I am pleased that they have retained the AS examination. I do believe that this is important in giving universities the ability to select based on the latest possible data and thus welcome this. It will be interesting to see if they will now force all students to certificate their AS qualification at this point. There is, though, much work still to be done on reform of the A Levels. I hope that the delay in announcing further reforms will mean that the proposed time-scale will be reconsidered. With changes to both A Levels and GCSE imminent there has to be a proper period to allow teachers to make the alterations to their courses and for the review of examining and exam board protocols to take place before we impose these new examinations. Without fundamental changes in these areas we will be perpetuating a system which many in schools feel is broken.”
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