School heads in last-ditch plea to Michael Gove over AS levels

In an article in the The Times, 15/03/13, Greg Hurst reports on HMC, ASCL, NAHT and AoC's plea to  Michael Gove to drop the most controversial part of his A level reforms.

In a letter to The Times 15/03/13, the heads of leading private schools join state school leaders in appealing “in the strongest terms” for AS levels to be kept within the A level.

They propose instead a technical change in which AS levels would count for up to 40 per cent of A-level marks, down from 50 per cent now. This, they argue, would remove any incentive for able students who achieve high marks in their AS-level exams to “coast” through their final year of sixth form.

Mr Gove insists that his plans for traditional two-year A levels must go ahead. But he has unveiled a separate concession, announcing that AS levels will retain their current level of difficulty when they become stand-alone qualifications. Initially he had proposed that they should become as hard as a full A level but with half the content.

This follows an intervention from Glenys Stacey, head of the independent exams regulator Ofqual, who told Mr Gove earlier this month that it was too much to rewrite AS level courses alongside new A levels by 2015. In a letter to Ms Stacey, the Education Secretary says that he remains committed to fuller reform of AS levels but that there should be discussion about “the options for the longer term”.

The heads’ proposal to re-balance AS-level marks within the A-level structure was one of the options suggested by Ofqual last year.

Ofqual’s board will meet on Wednesday to discuss the regulatory implications of Mr Gove’s A-level reforms. The heads’ intervention therefore represents a last attempt to force a re-think and follows similar protests last month from vice-chancellors of the 24 Russell Group universities.

The letter to The Times is signed by leaders of the Head masters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, representing 252 independent schools, and of most state-funded schools and colleges.

They say that doing away with the current system will mean a return to “the worst aspects of A levels before 2000, when the curriculum for 16-18 year olds was narrower and a significant number came away with little to show for their work in terms of qualifications at the end of Year 13”.

By Greg Hurst, Education Editor, The Times. Click here to read the article © The Times.

Click here to read the © letter to The Times.