A level Reforms

As you may be aware, the Government has introduced a fundamental change to the A level curriculum which is being implemented in stages from September 2015 to September 2017. This involves the most radical change in the structure of A levels since the introduction of the current modular A levels in 2000. The most significant changes are in the format and assessment of A level courses and the decoupling of the AS qualification from the A level. Some, but not all, subjects will be available in the new linear format in September, 2015. The rest will follow in 2016, except Mathematics which the government has pushed back until 2017.

After careful consideration of the advantages of the modular system, and based on our long expertise in Sixth Form education, Brampton has decided to offer most subjects via the new linear A levels, but others such as English Literature and Computer Science on a modular basis, via the Cambridge International (CIE) A level. The CIE offers most of the advantages of the current AS/A2 system. AS level is examined at the end of the first year, there are opportunities in the second year to re-sit AS exams, and AS will still form part of the overall A level qualification. It is a tried and trusted A level well respected by universities in the UK and around the world.

For some subjects, such as Art and Modern Languages, expertise in which is a matter of a steady, gradual increase in skills, a linear exam system seems quite appropriate. In other subjects, the new linear A level seem to us to offer other advantages – in terms of more exciting content or form of assessment, for example. The mix of linear and modular A levels on offer in the College will give Brampton students the chance to balance their exam workload in a sensible way across the two years of A level.
Will students sit an AS exam at the end of their first year of sixth form? There has been some controversy as to whether schools should offer the new AS level exams, given that they do not contribute to the overall A level. At Brampton, students will sit these exams. It is important for students (and their teachers) to get an objective sense of how they are progressing at this half-way stage, and AS marks will give universities a reliable measure of a student’s attainment when they come to apply for a degree. Cambridge University and one or two others have urged schools to adopt this strategy, and we agree with them. Students get a chance to show universities concrete, up-to-date evidence of their potential. If, moreover, their academic performance has improved since their GCSE year, students should be given a chance to show this improvement in support of their university application. Again, despite anxieties about the issue in some quarters, revision over Easter and in a short study leave period during the exams themselves will mean there are no serious practical problems in preparing students for AS exams at the end of the first year.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the new A levels by the government has been verging on the chaotic, and it would be no surprise to see further changes announced over the coming months. Our current plans are that in the first year of implementation commencing in September 2015, 10 subjects will be offered in the new linear format (Art, Photography, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Business Studies, Psychology and Sociology). All other subjects will remain in the modular format.

Link to Guardian Article dated 2nd December 2014