Exam regulator's research backs case for A-level reform

AS-levels face axe after warning that students are not being prepared for degree courses

University students today have a shallower subject knowledge despite record improvements in A-level results over recent years, a report from the exams regulator Ofqual said last night.

The research paves the way for a return to traditional A-levels with exams at the end of a two-year course, scrapping the modular AS-level system, as favoured by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

His proposal provoked an outcry from teachers yesterday, who warned that thousands more pupils will fail their A-levels as a result. The Ofqual report said that while the A-level pass mark rose year on year between 1996 and 2010, universities failed to report any increase in the ability of their first-year students.

"If anything, students' theoretical subject knowledge was said to have grown broader but shallower," it added.

As a result, some universities had been forced to lay on remedial classes to get students up to scratch to start courses. It puts the rise in the pass rate down to teachers getting better at coaching their pupils for exams. The report argues that a move away from AS-levels – worth half an A-level and taken at the end of the first year of sixth form – would be a better way of developing pupils' thinking skills.

Mr Gove favours going ahead with the move and wants to see syllabus planning and exam setting passed to university academics – predominantly from the Russell Group of universities, which represents 24 of the country's leading higher education research institutions.

Teachers, however, claim AS-levels are crucial in broadening the curriculum and helping pupils find out whether a particular A-level course is suitable. Furthermore, it is the only sixth-form qualification pupils usually have when applying to university, as offers are made before they sit A-levels. Most pupils take four subjects at AS-level and then drop their weakest subject when it comes to the full A-level. Universities also gave a lukewarm reaction to Mr Gove's plans, claiming they were too "elitist". Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the million+ university think-tank, said representatives of higher education institutions had made it clear to Mr Gove that the A-level system was not "broken".

"Education ministers appear to have ignored this advice and by promoting reform without any additional funding, the costs of involving academics are likely to be passed on to schools by exam boards," she said.

Julia Neal, a history teacher and former president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: "We are preparing our students for entry not just to Russell Group universities but other universities as well. A-levels are also used as currency for employment. I am rather concerned this is in danger of becoming very elitist."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb defended the proposals. "They will ensure that A-levels have the confidence of universities and employers and ensure that students have the high level skills they need to succeed," he said.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

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

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: KS1 & 2 Supply teachers ur...

1-1 Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Needs and 1-1 Learning ...

Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day and long term

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album