The challenge of new two -year A levels

In an article in the February 2013 issue of Independent Schools Magazine, Dr John Newton, head of Taunton School, Somerset, advocates the removal of A-level modules: A level modules are no more than a comfort blanket.

Other qualifications at sixth form level do not offer such easy options. The International Baccalaureate and the Pre-U offer straight, what the industry calls, `terminal’ tests. You get one chance. That was it. Sorry old chap. 

Experts have justified the modular approach by claiming that multiple opportunities to take exams improve grades (or more likely fix a parlous performance due to complacency). Yes, but is it of educational benefit?

The culture of `learn it and bin it’ has been too prevalent. One cannot help agreeing with the university admissions tutor who said that we are developing young people with sat nav minds – unable to unite large swathes of information, and only able to cope with one instruction at a time. No wonder universities welcome the IB student who embarks on their course armed with a full knowledge of a subject. No remedial courses are required for them. 

Certain universities are becoming more choosy and will expect pupils to justify their places on their popular courses. Ominously, they are requiring high grades after one exam sitting only in order for students to qualify for their most prestigious programmes. 

So much of success is being ready on the day. The professional world does not brook failure and as younger and more ambitious countries enter the fray in the coming generation, we have to ensure our young people are ready to earn and keep their place in the sun.”

Click here to read the article © Independent Schools Magazine.