A large and consequential error

I’ve no doubt all this has been written elsewhere, but my level of discombobulation over AS/A Levels has reached fever pitch.

This morning a number of heads organisations have written to the Times expressing their concerns over the plans for the AS in particular.

This is how I understand the plans:

  • AS and A levels to be decoupled – this means that any studies for an AS will not be able to count towards the A Level.
  • Both will be stand alone individual qualifications.
  • AS will stay at the same level of difficulty as currently

“As A levels become linear from 2015, the AS must be entirely decoupled to become a stand-along qualification that is also linear. We should also clarify that an AS is a qualification in its own right, so performance in an AS will not count towards an A level,” Mr Gove says.*

Now my understanding of qualifications is that there are rules on content and particularly around duplicated content in different qualification. If the AS and the A level are to be separate qualifications then this must mean there will be limitations as to what content can be duplicated. Does this mean that the de-facto standard for students wanting to study Maths at the highest level will become AS and A Level Maths, plus AS and A Level Further Maths? Or will we have students going to university who have missed out some topic areas because they were included in the the AS?

The alternative is that there is double counting in the qualifications, preventing a student from studying the AS and the A level. This means that all students would have to start on the A level, then drop back if there were fears they would not succeed. Or start the AS and transfer to A level if they were good at the subject without taking an exam. Either way there are problems, both in terms of logistics and motivation. I can see little to suggest that schools will run AS only groups. They would be too small and uneconomic.

As usual, until the final specifications are drawn up we won’t know the answers to these questions. By which time it will be too late.

All the people who on the face of it appear to be the experts in this area (head teachers, universities, awarding bodies, OFQUAL) are expressing grave reservations over the plans.

I fear a large and consequential error is being made here.

Additional Info from SoS letter to OFQUAL 14 March 2013

  • First teaching date for new A Levels moved back to Sept 2015
  • Priority to be given to facilitating subjects (except for languages)

* The Times 15 March 2013