Reforms tempt most pupils to take extra A-level

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The Independent Online

Most pupils will take up four instead of three A-level subjects from September as part of the biggest shift in the pattern of sixth-form study for 40 years.

Most pupils will take up four instead of three A-level subjects from September as part of the biggest shift in the pattern of sixth-form study for 40 years.

More than eight out of ten students will sit at least four new Advanced Subsidiary (AS) exams at the end of their first year in the sixth form and most will go on to take three or four full A-levels at the end of the following year, an official study reveals today.

The figures reflect the success of the Government's plans to broaden A-level study and bring it closer to baccalaureate-style 18-plus examinations on the Continent. Originally, ministers wanted students to take five subjects but accepted four when teachers said that schools had neither the time nor the money to offer so many.

The survey of nearly 2,000 comprehensive, grammar and independent schools and further education and sixth-form colleges by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) found that just under 12 per cent of pupils will take five of the new AS exams but 83 per cent will take four.

Ninety per cent will go on to take at least three full A-levels. Under the new arrangements, A-levels will be divided into six units. The first three will form the AS qualification.

The changes could alter the way in which students are selected for university which is based at present on predicted A-level grades. Tony Higgins, chief executive of Ucas, said: "We are about to see a huge shift away from the tradition of of sixth-formers studying three subjects for two years.

"Our survey shows that nine out of ten A-level students will already have AS qualifications when they apply for university or college next year, which means admissions officers will be able to make decisions based on AS results as well as predicted A-level grades."

Baroness Blackstone, the Education minister responsible for higher education, welcomed the figures. "The enthusiasm for studying more reflects an increased willingness by universities to use the new AS levels as part of their entry requirements," she said. "I hope they will do so - not least as they offer better predictions than GCSEs for likely A-level achievement."

More than 70 per cent of schools said they would be encouraging students to mix arts and science, but details of students' actual choices will not be known until September. The survey also shows that more than half of all schools and colleges will teach vocational A-levels, although only 10 per cent of independent schools will offer combined programmes of A-level and vocational A-levels.

New key skills qualifications in numeracy and, communication and information technology have proved less popular. Only one in five schools and colleges will offer all three.

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