Conversations about A Level reform

Much has been in the press recently about the government’s decision to return to a more traditional A Level course with just one examination at the end of Year 13. Under the new system, AS levels will still exist but they will become stand-alone qualifications and will no longer serve as a modular component of A level. 

A number of parents have asked me this week what my thoughts are on the subject and what these changes mean for BGS girls. I am personally delighted that we are doing away with this modular mode of study and believe our girls will greatly benefit from the proposed changes.One of the major problems of modules is that far too much time is spent taking and retaking them. Even when the girls perform extremely well the first time, they are often determined to retake them in an effort to gain even higher marks. For some, it stops them performing to their very best the first time because they feel they have a second chance. I can’t help but feel that this doesn’t offer young women the best preparation for university or for life and, therefore, doesn’t sit well with our core aims and philosophy. 

I believe firmly in the importance of co-curricular interests in shaping well-rounded, capable and compassionate individuals who are equipped for their life ahead. By removing the pressure of modules throughout Year 12, we can enable pupils to start to engage in proper co-curricular activities. They can enter competitions, set up their own business, work in the community, take part in sport, join the choir and enjoy their Sixth Form experience. Hitherto, while this has been possible for girls studying IB at Bedford Girls’ School it has been increasingly difficult to ensure A Level students are able to make the most of every aspect of their Sixth Form experience beyond the classroom.   

Another question many people are asking is whether Mathematics and English will become compulsory in the Sixth Form as the school-leaving age rises to 18? If so, will the Sixth Form curriculum become more akin to the IB Diploma Programme? While this is of concern to some Heads, I am confident that our school is extremely well-prepared to ride the sea of change and we already offer a well-established and successful IB Diploma alongside A Levels.  

IB is, of course, outside of the impact of national politics so will not itself become subject to a similar programme of government reform. As well as provoking the positive outcomes for girls I’ve outlined above, I also hope that these recent changes in the A Level system will cause people to look afresh at IB and the Diploma Programme with its aims of consistently educating pupils for life and a better world.