Richard Garner: Only AS-levels can show what a pupil is really capable of

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The Independent Online

Look, it's perfectly simple. All you have to do is either put back the start of the university term or bring forward the A-level exams. Then the admissions tutors would have the actual A-level results in front of them when deciding who to admit.

The trouble is, universities are reluctant to put back the start of their academic year, saying they cannot expect international students, who give them their world-class credibility, to wait for three months before starting their courses.

And schools argue that if you bring forward the start of exams you have to revolutionise the whole system back to primary school to ensure pupils have enough time to cope with the curriculum.

My preference would be to make the schools change – you would not have to bring things forward by that much. However, having written about this for a large part of my journalistic career, I know when I am flogging a dead horse.

So, accepting the realities of the situation could I please make a plea to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove? It is this. Don't follow your gut instinct and do away with an exam at the end of the first year of sixth-form (it would have been mine, too, before I talked to university admissions tutors). The AS-level provides them with the one bit of concrete evidence they have about a pupil's performance.

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