The future of A Levels

The future of A Levels

Group Chief Executive Simon Lebus and Group Director of Assessment, Research and Development Tim Oates both spoke recently on 'The future of the qualifications and assessment system - A Level reform and university entrance'.

Giving the Group's vision for the future of A Levels, at a Westminster Education Forum event, Simon dealt principally with the role of Higher Education (HE) in the development of the qualification. He said:

"As the principal organisations using the majority of A Levels for the purposes of placing students on the most appropriate higher level courses, HE should play a major role in defining course content. And, just as naturally, HE will have thoughts and preferences about course design and its assessment – which should carry much more weight than they do now.

"But, and I think it is a big ‘but’, such engagement has got to be supported by some sort of incentive for HE to do this, there has got to be some sort of process of institutional engagement, beyond a mere consultation process."

Simon also talked about the problems of a drive towards inter-subject comparability, and the need to focus on providing the most helpful information to HE:

"One of the main things that’s distorted what we do has been a search for inter-subject comparability and that means that subjects have had to be forced into regulatory templates….There has got to be much less emphasis on this kind of comparability....We need to move away from such templates back to the main purpose of the qualification – the provision of information to HE about the candidate.

"One of the ways one would deal with this would be through what I call more informative certification. The idea behind this is that if you have more granular information available, people can make their own minds up about how suitable candidates are….By making that information available there’s less pressure for these rather artificial and mechanical comparability regimes."

Tim Oates spoke on the topic of ‘University entrance - time for change’. Outlining the weaknesses of the American SAT for England, Tim said that "there is no magic bullet" for university admissions, and that “admissions processes and universities are sophisticated in their consideration of a broad range of outcomes that students derive from education.”

He said that whilst admissions tests in specific subjects do have their place in parts of the system, alongside this, “what we need is sophisticated consideration of fine grained information, understanding with more precision the requirements for high performance in individual courses.”

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