AS-levels and coursework may be scrapped for sixth-formers

Return of traditional A-level format heralded in new proposals by qualifications regulator

Controversial plans for reforming school exams could see the scrapping of AS-levels, the end of coursework and less reliance on re-sits, it was announced yesterday.

The proposals from Ofqual, the exams regulator, herald the return of the traditional A-level format, with everything resting on exams taken by pupils at the end of their two years of sixth form.

Many universities – including Cambridge – see AS-levels as the only way they can obtain evidence of pupils' achievements post-GCSE, as they are mainly taken at the end of the first year of the sixth form. Ministers recently abandoned the idea of pupils applying to universities after their A-levels.

However, Ofqual said it had been told that intense preparation for AS-level exams meant that pupils neglected sport, drama and voluntary work in the first year of the sixth form.

Glenys Stacey, Ofqual's chief executive, said Ofqual remained "neutral" on the future of the exam but said scrapping it was one of three options.

Students would also be limited to just one re-sit of their exams under the plans, as Ofqual said there was evidence that some did not take it seriously when they could have limitless tries.

Ofqual recommends universities have the power to design A-level courses and sign off exams. Such a move is favoured by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who believes it will lead to more rigorous questions. Ofqual suggested such exams should have the support of at least 20 universities – 12 of whom should be good research institutions.

At present A-levels are broken down into four modules, two taken in the first year of the sixth form and two in the second year. Ofqual suggested this system should be ended in favour of more focus on the end-of-second-year exam, at 18.

But in its consultation paper, Ofqual admits: "We know some stakeholders from higher education and teaching do support the AS-level qualification being kept. They believe that it increases the breadth of the curriculum."

Most young people take four subjects at AS-level, dropping their weakest one when they go on to A-level. Some stakeholders say this has "a negative impact on teaching time, limits synoptic learning and results in students focussing on exams at the expense of the pursuit of other interests such as sport, drama and volunteering", says Ofqual.

A spokesman for Pearsons, the company in charge of the Edexcel exam board, said AS-levels helped support the university selection process.

There was anger over the proposal to put universities in charge of certain exams. Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the million+ university think-tank, said: "A-levels would lose all credibility for students, employers and higher education if their approval depended on a small sub-set of universities."

The reform of A-levels will be completed by September 2018. The first stages will be introduced in September 2013.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, urged ministers not to speed ahead with reforms, adding that it was "simplistic" to say the modular approach was easier than end-of-term exams.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power