Ofqual A-level reform consultation

19 June 2012

Commenting on the release of Ofqual’s consultation document on A-level reform, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“We welcome this consultation, and we are pleased to see many of our universities’ concerns about A-levels are likely to be addressed.

“While A-Levels are broadly fit for purpose, we do have several concerns. With the current modular system, students too often quickly forget the ‘bite-sized chunks’ of knowledge they have learnt. This makes it harder for them to have an overall grasp of that subject, to synthesise information and to become independent learners. This consultation’s proposals on ending the modular system and January exams are welcome.

“The proposed reduction in the number of re-sits that students are allowed to do would be a step in the right direction. We think it’s fair that people are given a second chance if they have good reasons for under-performing in an exam, but more recently students have been allowed to do re-sits too frequently. Our universities are concerned that many of the students who don’t get the grades first or second time around don’t go on to do as well in their chosen degree course.

“AS levels are useful to universities – as indicators of post-GCSE progress – and to students seeking to develop a broader range of knowledge. However, the AS and A2 components do not necessarily deserve equal weighting within A-levels. 

“We have some concerns about the content as well as the structure of A-levels. Maths A-Level poses particular problems: some modules are just not challenging enough to equip students not only to do a maths degree but also to go onto to degrees in engineering or physics. There has been too much focus on an ‘emotional’ response to texts rather than on robust critical analysis in some subjects like English. 

“We will carefully consider the Government’s proposal that our universities should sign-off on all A-levels. We are already looking at how we might help shape and improve qualifications in the UK. However there are real pressures of time and resources which we will need to balance. 

“We look forward to engaging with Ofqual’s consultation process and considering the proposals in more detail.”

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