Ofqual kills off January resits in bid to stop grade inflation

Regulator to scrap second chance at A-levels as report reveals teachers’ anger at Gove reforms 

Students will only be able to sit their A-levels in the summer after Ofqual scrapped January exams.

The move is designed to prevent pupils from resitting exams to obtain higher marks – a culture critics say has led to grade inflation and a devaluing of the exam system.

The regulator’s decision came after three months of consultation and will be welcomed by the Education Secretary Michael Gove, who is anxious to switch the emphasis in A-levels away from coursework and back to the end-of-term exam.

The Ofqual report also reveals that many of the Government’s other A-level reforms have provoked a hostile reaction from universities and headteachers. They dislike Mr Gove’s proposals for closer university involvement, saying A-level syllabuses should not need to be signed off by as many as 20 universities before getting the green light. They also oppose the idea that 12 of the 20 must be leading research institutions such as the Russell Group, saying support for the exams should be broader based.

Most of those who responded to the Ofqual consultation also opposed the scrapping of AS-levels, usually taken by students at the end of the first year in the sixth form. “It was felt that maintaining the current AS/A2 (full A-level) structure would enable students to experience a greater breadth of learning – undertaking four subjects instead of three in year one,” the report said.

Almost every respondent also claimed the Government was moving too fast on its changes by seeking to implement them in 2014. It wanted them put back to 2015 or 2016.

In announcing the ban on sitting the exam in January, Glenys Stacey, chief executive of Ofqual, said concerns had been expressed over a “resit culture”, adding: “Teachers in particular said that A-level students approach examinations with the expectation they will always get a second chance.”

She said that universities had supported the idea of more involvement with A-levels.

However, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, the body which represents vice-chancellors, said: “As the report acknowledges, there is not an appetite for universities to take full ownership of A-level content development and assessment.” Universities argue it would be too costly and time consuming.

Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students, said: “These announcements from Ofqual represent a return to a 1950s’ draconian-style education system where your entire future is based on your performance on one day, with no second chances or room for an off day.”

The Department for Education welcomed the move: “Academics at our best universities have been concerned that there are real problems with  A-levels. We are pleased that January exams and multiple resits will be scrapped.... Further announcements on A-levels will be made soon.”