Independent and state schools and colleges join forces to call for a rethink of proposed A level changes

The leaders of the associations representing England’s state and independent schools and colleges have joined forces to call on the Secretary of State to rethink his decision to change the structure of A levels. The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) published an open letter to the Secretary of State today calling for the move.

The letter states: “In recent weeks it has become clear that the 24 universities of the Russell Group are opposed to the abandonment of the current A-level examinations structure of AS-level and A2. On behalf of the great majority of all school and college leaders in England, maintained and independent, we are writing to express strongly a similar view.”

The Secretary of State is proposing to change the structure of the qualification so that students choose between a standalone one-year exam, an AS, or a two-year A-level. Currently AS comprises the first year of the two-year exams, so that most students do four AS-level subjects in their first year and go on to full A-levels in three of the subjects.

The letter to the Secretary of State warns that “the removal of the AS as a stepping-stone may well reduce the take-up of subjects which are regarded as significantly harder at A-level than at GCSE, including maths and modern languages. Without validation at the 'stepping-stone' point, less confident students are likely to be discouraged from embarking on A-levels in the first place.”

It continues: “We are likely to see a return to the worst aspects of A-level prior to 2000 when the Year 12 and 13 curriculum was narrower; and a significant number of students committed to a two-year programme yet came away with nothing to show for it at the end of Year 13.”


To read the letter in full go to

For more information please contact:


  • Brian Lightman, ASCL General Secretary on 07977 541868
  • Sara Gadzik, Press Office on 07769677902 or [email protected]


  • Dr Christopher Ray, HMC Chairman and High Master of The Manchester Grammar School on 07415 131 926
  • Heidi Salmons, Press Office on 07760 889 008/01858 469 059 [email protected]
  • Dick Davison, Press Office on 07725 754 824 [email protected]


  • Heather Forse, Senior Press Officer, Press Office, NAHT Direct line: 01444 472452
  • Mobile: 07739 325133
  • Email: [email protected]