Proposal to bring in new-style A-levels on a subject-by-subject basis

Proposal to bring in new-style A-levels on a subject-by-subject basis

Proposals have been put forward to bring in set of new new-style A-levels on a subject-by-subject basis over a number of years.

But the university admissions service, Ucas, says subjects revamped later in the process, rather than sooner, could lose value and suffer “lasting damage” as a result. It argues that if the new courses are seen as tougher than certain other A levels students could be put off, leading to a fall in demand.

Ofqual – the government body overseeing qualifications – is asking for views on proposals to bring in the first of the new A-level courses in 2014. It says it will do this with certain “priority subjects”, with the rest of the subjects introduced at some time (yet to be specified) between 2015 and 2018.

Now students always choose subjects that they have an interest in and which they feel that they can do well in. The good musician is obviously going to choose music, no matter what, but if music is not a reformed A level until the last year, it might be downgraded by universities, and schools may find that students for whom A level music is a “maybe” rather than a must-do, will opt out of the subject. As a knock on effect the subject becomes less available in schools.

On the other hand Ucas also argues that there is also a risk that if new specifications are perceived to be more difficult, students might steer clear of the key subjects. Indeed this is what happened to A-level maths as a result of reforms known as Curriculum 2000.

Its chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: “I know Curriculum 2000 was 10 years ago, but have people forgotten that if you make A-levels tougher, you will depress participation and you will depress achievement?

“So if A-levels are still the key currency for progression to higher education we just need to have that on our radar screen.”

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