Despite messy, fragmentary and over-speedy implementation, HMC ready for the challenge of new two-year A levels

The Coalition’s plans for the reform of qualifications in England are emerging only slowly from the fog, and what is revealed is a partial, fragmentary landscape.  Above all, the various components are rushed and incoherent. This does not betoken respect for the young people whose education will be reshaped by a process jumbling together changes to GSCE and A level, while leaving inadequate supervision of examining unreformed – and all to a timetable based on electoral politics rather than principles of sound implementation.  

Nevertheless, HMC schools will rise to the challenge of today’s announcements on A levels. For over a decade sixth-form teachers have paced courses to the important milestone of external assessment every six months over the two-year course. The scrapping of January modules and the removal of the AS level as the first-year foundation for a full A level will now place a creaking ‘examinations industry’ under even more pressure and will present a challenge to all schools and colleges. 

Our strength in depth in subject teaching will stand HMC schools in good stead.  The staff in our schools are very highly qualified in terms of subject knowledge.[1] This is a key strength and the professional networks across our schools will allow us to create powerful and effective forms of best practice in teaching the new two-year courses.

HMC welcomes a greater involvement of leading universities in shaping the content of  A levels – so long as advice on sound and effective teaching, and on age-appropriate content, is led by representatives of schools and colleges.  Universities and HMC schools share the teaching of the same subjects across the age group 16-21 and our students go on in very large numbers to single-honours degree courses in the main A level subjects.  We look forward to contributing to reform discussions about how university-supervised content in A levels can be taught to the 16-18 age group with confidence and with success in all schools and colleges.


Notes to Editors

[1] For example, in the main science subjects and in languages there is a far higher proportion of graduates of the subject concerned teaching in our schools’ sixth forms than in other types of school.  In the sciences, 14% of physics teachers in independent schools have a doctorate (whereas one in four secondary schools in England has no specialist physics teacher at all), 19% of chemistry teachers in independent schools have a doctorate, while 18% of biology teachers are similarly qualified. Source: ISC Teacher Survey. ISC Bulletin 26 (May, 2012), pp. 8-14. 

Michael Gove’s letter to Ofqual can be read at


Heidi Salmons, HMC Communications Manager, 07760 889 008 [email protected]

Richard Davison, HMC Press Officer, 07725 754 824 [email protected]