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Top private schools in Oxfordshire look at opting out of new A-Levels
THE controversial planned reforms to the A-Level system could see some of Oxfordshire’s top independent schools using other qualifications.
The changes will see AS- Levels – currently sat in the first year of sixth form and contributing with the second year A2 results to a final A-Level result – turned into standalone qualifications.
Thousands of Oxfordshire students will today discover the results of their A-Levels, but concerns have been raised about their future.
Dr Tim Hands, headteacher at Oxford’s Magdalen College School and chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said schools were “without doubt” concerned.
He added: “At this school, like any other, we will look at the right exams for the right candidate to get them to the right university and we review that regularly.”
He said the school already offered an uncertificated study scheme which helped address concerns about the ‘narrowness’ of A-Levels.
Abingdon School deputy headteacher Graeme May said the school was actively looking at alternatives.
Mr May said: “We too have expressed our concern about the loss of the AS qualification as part of a full A-Level and will actively keep alternatives under review while the exam boards are formulating their new specifications.
“It is particularly noteworthy that Ofqual’s impact assessment for the new qualifications specifically reported back to Michael Gove that the great majority of those consulted were in favour of retaining a link between AS and A2.
“He chose to ignore this.”
Possible alternatives to A-Level qualifications include the International Baccalaureate, which is already taken by students at St Clare’s College, North Oxford, and a small number at Headington School.
Many county schools now use the International GCSE for some subjects, and it is thought the parallel qualification, the International A-Level, could be an attractive alternative for schools fed up with the system.
Another option is the Cambridge Pre-U, which about 100 schools nationally entered this year.
But some schools said they intend to stick with A- Levels. Judith Carlisle, headteacher at Oxford High School, said offering the International Baccalaureate alongside A-Levels would inevitably mean less A-Level subjects could be offered.
She said: “We review our exam courses frequently, and aim to find the courses that are most appropriate for the girls that will get them to the next level.
“We would be unlikely to change the system wholesale and have no plans to move into International A- Levels.
“The 26 A-Levels we offer combined things such as the Extended Project qualification and some Open University modules that we offer seems to suit the students and us.”
D’Overbroeck’s College, North Oxford, introduced the AQA Baccalaureate three years ago alongside A-Levels. Director of studies Alastair Barnett said: “It potentially gives us the best of both worlds, a strong academic core and some of the width by adding the critical thinking and independent extended project.”
He said the Cambridge Pre-U qualification remained relatively untested, while International A- Levels might not be appropriate because the college wanted its qualifications to be “right for the UK market”.
FROM next month, pupils will not be able to sit A-Level exams in January, with all exams being taken in the summer.
Other longer term changes planned are for all assessments to be taken at the end of the A-Level, rather than at the end of each year, and the introduction of a standalone AS-Level which will not contribute to a full A-Level.
The curriculum content of current exams is also being reviewed.
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