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 special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot