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Flawed foundations – Demise of AS levels

So Mr Gove announced the end of AS level examinations in favour of final termination system at the end of year 13. 
To quote Mr Gove “what we wanted to do then, was essentially, try to ensure that A-Levels …gave people a better preparation for what university involves”

Ok I can see two things here:

1. Universities run on semesters and many modules.  Students have many opportunities to sit modules again in most cases.  So the terminal exam is actually more useful in preparation for death than modules at uni

2.  Currently universities select students on real exam data at AS level.  This gives them an accurate picture of ability by externally set exam.  With this new system selection will be on GCSE performance and some optimistic predictions.

3. Gove suggests this will promote deeper learning.  Possibly but how can this be tested in terminal exam.  More tricky questions?  Longer exam papers.  Surely testing more often with feeback will aid deeper learninf than a one off test?

4.  Students will have pressure at the end of their final year of school.  It will be their last chance to shine.  Are we trying to kill our students off. 

5. Is the goal of education and A-Levels solely for academic achievement…yes of we a trying to create professors of the future at Universities however in my experience theu are much wider than that. 

I worry, correction, I worry a lot about this.  The only saving grace is that I am sure Wales and Scotland won’t go this way.  So in essence great headlines for the tabloids, great pressure for the teachers and even greater pressure for students ..some of whom, I find it sad to say, might even pay the ultimate price if they fail.

I was an assistant head of sixthform and dealt with a lot of the pastoral and academic issues as well as being in charge of UCAS so this post is not an inexperienced sound byte it is based on my experience in education.


About danbowen

Educational technology learning and teaching consultant, support, training, change management, innovation and all things ICT and educational, father of two, guitarist, welsh rugby follower,

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