In an article in the Telegraph, 14/08/13, Graeme Paton reports that rising numbers of fee-paying schools could scrap the exam in its current form amid a backlash over changes to way the qualification is run. Former HMC Chairmen and members Andrew Grant, St Albans School, Bernard Trafford, Royal Grammar School, Newcastle and Ed Elliott, The Perse School are quoted.
As sixth-formers across the country prepare to receive their results tomorrow, it emerged that many heads were considering shifting towards an alternative version of the exam created for schools overseas.
In all, 72 schools entered pupils for International A-levels this summer but it is believed numbers could soar in coming years.
One leading head said the exodus could eventually mirror the shift towards the international version of GCSEs which is currently taken by around 400 private schools.
Andrew Grant, former chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents 250 top schools, including Eton, Harrow and Winchester, said a “high proportion” of HMC members were unhappy with changes to A-levels.
It comes as 300,000 teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland prepare to receive A-level grades on Thursday.
Currently, pupils sit AS-level exams in the first year of the sixth-form and then A2 exams in the second year – with overall marks combining to form the final A-level result.
But the Government has outlined plans to turn AS-levels into standalone qualifications from 2015 onwards, with results no longer counting towards final marks. Instead, most pupils will only sit exams at the end of the two-year course.
Ministers insist it will cut down on the number of exams taken between the age of 16 and 18 and enable pupils to study subjects in more depth.
But the move has been criticised by HMC.
Mr Grant, the head of St Albans School, Hertfordshire, told the Times Educational Supplement: “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.
“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.”
Cambridge University’s exam board currently run International A-levels, retaining exams in the first and second year of the course.
The Perse School, Cambridge, is among those already shifting towards International A-levels, which will retain the AS Level at the halfway point.
Bernard Trafford, head of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Royal Grammar School, and another former HMC chairman, said he “did not rule out” opting for the International A-level.
Many other schools have already moved towards other alternative exams for 16- to 18-year-olds, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the Cambridge Pre-U qualification.
Figures show 99 schools entered the Pre-U this year and 188 offered the IB.
Separately, International GCSEs – introduced over the last decade to create an alternative version of GCSEs – are currently taken by around 400 private schools in Britain.
Mr Grant said he could envisage a shift towards International A-levels in similar numbers.
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