Last Tuesday we welcomed Year 11 students and their parents to our Post 16 Open Evening. This proved a very popular and enjoyable event with some 300 students from both West Bridgford and other schools in attendance. Staff were certainly kept very busy answering lots of sharp and searching questions about all aspects of sixth form life.
One of the ‘hot’ topics was the school’s plan for implementing the forthcoming A-level reforms. As you may know, from September 2015 around half of the A levels we teach change to fully linear courses with the rest set to follow in 2016. What this means is that the new A levels will be assessed in one go at the end of year 13. AS levels are to be ‘decoupled’ so that they no longer count to the full A level but become standalone qualifications that can be taken in either year 12 or year 13.
When the current AS level system was first introduced in 2000 it wasn’t initially popular in educational circles. However, it’s fair to say that the qualification has subsequently proved its worth. For example, it does encourage students to take on courses they haven’t come across at GCSE such as psychology or economics, knowing that if that choice doesn’t quite work out they can drop the subject at the end of year 12 but still have something to show for their efforts. University admissions tutors in particular say that AS grades provide them with a credible picture of a student’s academic development, helping them to make realistic offers through the UCAS process. Certainly the results at the end of year 12 give students the opportunity to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, perhaps redoubling their efforts if the outcome wasn’t what they’d hoped or allowing them to concentrate on their stronger subjects in year 13.
At the moment we are very reluctant to lose all of the benefits we perceive in AS assessments, particularly their usefulness as a progress check and ‘gateway’ to the next stage. We therefore plan to offer programmes based on a similar model to our current approach. This means that students will start a 3 or 4 A level programme leading to year 12 AS exams in the first instance with progression onto full A level in year 13. This model, of course, depends on the new AS levels being fully co-teachable with full A-levels, as was promised in the reforms. Although this does appear to be the case for the majority of specifications we have looked at so far, there are still some details to be worked out particularly regarding courses with large coursework elements. Whatever the final conclusion we will, of course, continue to keep a close eye on all developments and potential sixth form students and their parents can be assured that we will be fully set for the start of their new A level courses in September.