European studies axed as sixth-formers focus on exam success

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The Independent Online

Sixth-formers will soon lose the opportunity to take an exam in European studies.

Sixth-formers will soon lose the opportunity to take an exam in European studies.

The only exam board to offer the option, the Assessment and Qualification Alliance, has decided to scrap its AS-level in the subject.

The board blamed a low take-up for the decision - saying that only 313 students opted to take the subject this year. The last students to sit the exam will take it in summer 2006.

Helen Hallett, head of external relations at AQA, blamed the reason for the low take-up on "an overloaded curriculum" - and the fact that there were no opportunities to take the subject at full A-level.

"The introduction of AS-levels was supposed to widen the sixth-form curriculum," she added. "However, in practice, students have opted to take extra AS-levels in subjects near to those they have chosen for A-level.

"Students know they need to get places at university and so they stick to subjects in which they are interested so they can gather the points they need to get to university. They tend to still take subjects in the areas they're good at."

Originally, the board offered a certificate in European studies - backed by the British Council - but interest in it dwindled as schools became more focused on exams. The board said it took advantage of the introduction of the AS-level to see whether offering the subject as a fully-fledged examination would increase the take-up.

However, teachers who have encouraged students to take the AS-level believe the decision is a blow to hopes of encouraging pro-European opinion through the education system.

They add that it is "outrageous" that educational opportunities for youngsters should be governed solely by financial considerations.

They argue that if AQA had instead decided to offer it as a full A-level, the numbers taking it up would have increased.