Private school may ditch A-levels

editorial image

SOME leading private schools could reportedly drop A-level courses and opt for an international alternative amid concern about the government’s exam reforms.

A number of fee-paying schools are looking at introducing international A-levels for pupils, which would still allow young people to take AS-levels halfway through the course, according to tes.co.uk.

As part of major exam reforms in England, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that AS-levels are to be separated from full A-levels to form a qualification in their own right.

It means that unlike the current system, AS-levels - taken after one year of study - would no longer count towards a student’s final A-level grade.

But the move has proved controversial with a number of universities, including Cambridge, and school leaders warning against the change.

Andrew Grant, head of fee-paying St Alban’s School in Hertfordshire, said he is looking “very, very seriously” at international A-levels.

Mr Grant, also a former chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) which represents around 250 independent schools in the UK and Ireland, said he is looking for a way of continuing the AS-level system and that many of his HMC colleagues were doing the same.

International AS and A-levels in 60 subjects are offered by Cambridge International Examinations. As with the A-level system, students can take international AS courses as qualifications in their own right, or as part of a full international A-level.

Mr Grant told tes.co.uk: “I know I am speaking for many of my colleagues in HMC when I say we will look for a way of continuing the AS-level system. We at St Albans School are looking very, very seriously at international A-levels because we feel there is a tremendous value in the feedback provided by AS-levels at the halfway point.”

He later told the Press Association that the introduction of AS-levels more than a decade ago “encouraged bright students to broaden their studies”. After one year they would get feedback through their AS-level results on how they had done and could then choose whether to continue with all of their subjects, or focus on just some.

Mr Grant said he has asked his heads of department to look at international AS-levels, and that they would now consider introducing them in subjects “that have got a sufficient range of options within them for us to offer attractive courses to our students and teachers who are going to teach them”.

Bernard Trafford, head of the private Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, said independent schools have the freedom to choose the qualifications they want to offer.

“Whenever we are unhappy with a syllabus or exam we can quickly start to look around to see what else is out there. Why wouldn’t we look at international A-levels?”

This is what private schools did when there were concerns over GCSEs, he said, and now many private schools use international GCSEs instead.

He said he does not think that many are near to moving toward international A-levels at the moment.