A-level reforms persuade schools to try alternative structure

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The Independent Online

One in eight independent schools may offer European-style baccalaureates amid increasing dissatisfaction with the new A-levels, a survey by headteachers shows.

One in eight independent schools may offer European-style baccalaureates amid increasing dissatisfaction with the new A-levels, a survey by headteachers shows.

Many at the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference, holding its annual meeting in Harrogate yesterday, are unhappy with the reformed A-levels the Government introduced this term.

They say the exams, which involve a new one at the end of the first year in the sixth form, mean too much testing, will not challenge the brightest pupils and will not offer breadth. Students are taking more subjects, but they do not mix arts and science as most 18-year-olds do on the Continent.

The survey of 406 independent schools has been sent to all vice-chancellors and David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, who said he was very impressed by his visits to three schools doing the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Seven independent schools offer the IB and six intend to. Sevenoaks School in Kent is switching entirely to the IB. Two dozen state schools also offer it. IB pupils study up to six subjects, including maths and a foreign language, as well as community service and philosophy.

Dr Phillip Evans, head of Bedford School and chairman of the Universities Committee for leading boys' and girls' independent schools, said: "A substantial minority of schools are looking at the IB. More will introduce it if the feeling continues that the new A-level isinsufficiently challenging, involves over-testing and interferes with education."

Barnaby Lenon, head of Harrow School, said most independent schools would not offer the IB. "All our pupils would be compelled to do maths, a foreign language and science but there are many who thrive in the sixth form because they focused on their strengths."

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