A-level Reform in England
A-Level Reform Timelines
WHS Policy Statement on A-level Reform in England
William Howard School is a large rural non-select 11-18 mixed Academy. We are the only secondary school in the town of Brampton, and have a large catchment area, attracting students from the local area and beyond.
We have over 200 students studying in our sixth form, and offer a large range of both A-level and Level 3 BTEC qualifications. Many of our students opt for a mixed academic profile, so chose to study a mixture of A-levels and BTEC qualifications.
Students follow either 3 or 4 subjects in year 12. In year 13, the vast majority of students continue with 3 subjects.
Since the introduction of the reformed A-levels in September 2015, William Howard’s policy has been to continue to enter students for an externally assessed AS exam at the end of year 12 (lower sixth). So regardless of whether the subject is coupled or de-coupled, and regardless of whether the student plans to carry on with the subject in year 13 to A-level, our students will sit AS examinations. There have been 2 slight exceptions this year, however, with students on the Art and Photography A-level courses who have decided to follow a linear approach, so will not have an AS grade at the end of year 12. Also, some students on the Applied Science BTEC course have decided not to certificate at the end of year 12, if they are continuing the course for the full two years.
As a school we see value in students studying towards AS exams, as we have found the idea of working towards an exam to be motivational, and found that encouraging a broad curriculum allows our students to pursue multiple pathways after school. More specifically, William Howard School has decided to carry on with AS examinations for several reasons:
- The 2015 A-level reforms are currently still in the early stages, and some universities have commented that they will review these reforms annually once they get a picture of the new A-levels once the current cohort have sat their A-level exams in 2017. So we feel it would be unfair to change anything for our students at this point.
- Some universities have indicated they may use the results from a fourth AS to decide between similarly qualified students on results day. With competition for places on certain courses high, we wish to give our students the best chances of securing a place on their chosen course.
- AS exams are an excellent way to show a student’s development and potential. Agreeing with many universities, we believe that AS examinations are an excellent way to show a student’s potential to go on and study at university level.
- AS exams are a useful decision making tool. When our students receive their AS exam results it helps them to decide which pathway is best for them once they finish school. It could be that they didn’t think they could get into university, so the AS exams are a great motivational tool for some students.
- AS exams allow students to show their academic progress since sitting GCSE exams. Many of our students mature academically during sixth form, so the AS exams give them a platform to show future universities or employers their potential, which they might not have fully demonstrated at GCSE level.
- AS results allow us to make more informed predicted grades, as part of the UCAS application process. Having externally assessed exam results means our predicated grades are more reliable than just using internally assessed work to make predicted grades. We also find that many of our students perform above their school targets as they thrive when studying subjects they have a real interest in – having AS results benefits these students and shows their full potential.
When determining our predicated grades, the student’s AS results play an important role. But, the predicated grades are also informed by the internal assessments teachers use throughout the year, so predicated grades will also be informed by the professional judgement of the teacher. Teachers will use data from the use of exam style questions in class or as homework, and through the use of mock exams using past papers during end of unit assessments and during mock weeks. For subjects which still contain coursework, the coursework grades are also used to help inform the predicted grade, with the specific coursework weighting, as a percentage of the overall grade, taken into consideration.
Predicated grades in BTEC qualifications are based on the unit assessments the student has handed in throughout the year, with each unit carrying a particular number of credits which counts towards their overall grade at the end of the two years. Teachers of BTEC courses can then mathematically work out what potential grade a student can achieve based on their year 12 performance.