A Level Reform

A Level Reform and what it means to students

What is A Level reform?

You may have seen in the news that A Levels will be changing soon. This reform is driven by the Government and aims to better equip students for university and employment. The changes are part of a national initiative to ensure that the value of A Levels is maintained in the future. Teaching the new style A Levels will begin in September 2015.

What is changing?

  • AS qualifications will become standalone and not count towards A2. At the moment, AS assessments contribute to students’ final A Level grades.
  • AS qualifications and A Levels will be assessed at the end of the course. AS and A Level qualifications will become linear qualifications officially assessed at the end of the course. Students will not have to take exam board assessments halfway through an A Level course, as they do at the moment. They will sit all the exams together at the end of a two-year A Level course.
  • Greater emphasis on exams as the most effective form of assessment. Many A Levels are already assessed by examination only, but others mix exams and coursework. This may be changed. In the future, coursework will be limited to a maximum of 20% of marks for any subject. Coursework will only form part of the assessment where it is recognised that skills cannot be fairly assessed by examination. For all other subjects, assessment will be by exam only. In sciences, a practical assessment will be reported separately as a pass or fail, rather than as part of the A Level grade.
  • Some A Level subjects may disappear to prevent duplication.This is unlikely to lead to any significant change at Stanley Park High. We expect the vast majority of our current offer to continue beyond 2017.

What is staying the same?

  • A Levels will continue to be a two year course, as they always have been.
  • The grading system (A* to E) will stay the same.
  • The value of A Levels will remain unchanged. The qualifications will still allow universities to accurately identify the level of achievement of students, and provide a benchmark of academic ability for employers. A Levels remain an internationally comparable Post 16 academic course of study.

How will subjects be affected?

Course content will be changed in waves. The first set of subjects will be taught in the new way from September 2015.

These are:

  • Art and Design
  • Biology
  • Business Studies
  • Chemistry
  • English Literature
  • History
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Currently , the second wave in 2016 is set to include:

  • Design and Technology
  • Drama
  • Geography
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Music
  • PE
  • Religious Studies

2017

  • Mathematics
  • Further Maths

Why are the changes happening?

The Government’s research on A Levels showed that the current system is generally working well. However, an update of the A Level system to review their relevance was due. The A Level qualification has existed since 1951 and was last updated in 2008.

The main issues identified were:

The modular system isn’t giving students a broad range of knowledge.
Universities felt that students had not been given sufficient time to develop the breadth of understanding during an A Level course which was broken into four or six units. It is hoped that removing the modular approach will enable more time to be devoted to key topics, allowing students to develop a deeper understanding.

Too many assessments disrupt teaching.
The January exam series for AS/A Levels was removed from January 2014. Exams at the end of
each term effectively became an assessment of how good students were at doing exams, rather than assessing their knowledge and understanding of that particular subject. Multiple assessments throughout the year also meant that teachers had to spend too much time focusing on exam preparation.

Multiple assessments can have a negative effect on other subjects.
Some students may have prioritised subjects which had assessments in January, meaning that they neglected other subjects with exams in June.

There were too many resits.
Previously, students could retake an exam or assessment several times. This created a ‘resit culture’ with some students not taking assessments as seriously as they should.

Further Questions?

For more information and updates about the A Level reform, go to www.ofqual.gov.uk