From education to employment

Ofqual consulting on proposed A Level changes

Since the last A Level review four years ago, Ofqual has conducted independent research and decided now is the time to once more propose change to the qualification. Originally created for universities as an entrance requirement, today A levels serve a very different purpose for learners who are now pursing alternative, and perhaps less expensive, paths to education and employment.

A reduction in resits, abolishment of January exams and perhaps AS Levels altogether, are just some of the changes being considered.

Glenys Stacey, chief regulator for Ofqual, stated: “We know that people have different views on whether AS levels should continue. We are neutral on this issue, and the consultation outlines a range of options on which we would welcome feedback.”

The reason for this review is to ensure A levels, individually, are fit for purpose.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills, responded to the proposed consultation by saying: “The focus needs to be on making A-levels more challenging, to ensure that young people are not just better prepared for university, but are also well-equipped for work.”

With rising higher education fees, less government funding and growing unemployment, there is now the need for specific qualifications which will serve a purpose for students wishing to attend their university course of choice and for those who wish to immediately enter employment.

“Businesses value A Levels as a key benchmark for recruiting the right young people, but believe that as part of making them more rigorous the curriculum should include essential skills that are needed in the workplace, such as analytical thinking, problem-solving and self-management. Business is keen to pay its part in a collaborative approach to reform the system,” said Carberry.

A Levels need to display a maintained standard, which is trusted by universities and employers alike, which is what makes Ofqual regulations and consultations such as the one taking place this Summer, where education providers and employers can have their say, so important.

Universities no longer being the popular destination they once were for school leavers, and Carberry believes it is necessary that the rubric fit the needs of those wishing to enter into a different further education scheme, an Apprenticeship or work environment, and be of a high enough standard to benefit the workplace.

“While A-levels were originally developed by universities they now serve a broader purpose in post-16 education, especially as an entry for young people to higher apprenticeships and ‘learn while you earn’ routes,” he said.

Ofqual plans to implement change by allowing universities and other Higher Education institutions to determine the content of A levels, in line with the government desire for Further Education to become ‘more involved in A level development’. Ofqual is launching the review in order to gain useful response from education providers and employers as to how they think A levels should be structured.

Stacey explained: “We want to hear what schools, colleges and employers, as well as universities, think of our proposals.”

Ofqual is also very interested in gathering the opinions of teachers, which Stacey says are particularly important, not only for their input but also their help in developing a good, cohesive curriculum for A Level education.

With any changes made after Ofqual’s consultation to be put in place as early as September next year, it will be interesting to see how well the new structure of A Levels, which aim to combine subject specific knowledge, higher intelligence and analytical testing, with business and employability skills, will provide for learners.

Daisy Atkinson

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