“I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray” 1999, Prince
In 1982 the artist formerly known as Prince had a massive hit with 1999 and the above line from the song makes us feel (in respect to all the exam change that we are having in Sixth forms) that we’ve been in a dream and we are going back to 1999. 1999 was the last year before we entered Curriculum 2000, a new system of 4 AS Levels followed by 3 A2 levels giving us 3 A levels and an AS level. The reason given by the Labour government at the time was that it would allow science types to do something different and essay types to do something different, this carried on for 15 years and we now have a new linear form of A levels being introduced with some new AS levels which can be taken in various ways or not at all, with the reason given by the then Coalition, is more opportunity for extra-curricular activities.
UCAS have now released an excellent piece of research to see what school and college feelings on the ground are about the new developments (see link below). Interestingly only 13% of respondents say that they are not going to revisit the decisions they have made so far about new A Level and AS level provision and most of these were independent schools. We clearly have a very fluid situation developing which will become increasingly difficult for careers advisers and teachers to explain.
For example if a Year 11 student asks you about A level provision at a school or college, is it:
- Start 4 A levels, take 4 AS levels, go down to 3 A Levels
- Start 4 A levels, take mock exams at end of year 12, go down to 3 A levels
- Start 3 A Levels, take mock exams at end of year12, carry on with 3 A Levels
- Start 3 A Levels and 1 AS level, carry on with 3 A levels
- Start 3 A levels and EPQ
- There are other permutations of this A level model let alone BTEC etc.
For what it’s worth these are our predictions based on nothing more than the UCAS survey, talking to people on the ground, gut feelings and collectively having worked in school sixth forms for nearly 100 years
- Within a few years (once all A Levels have been reformed) the standard sixth form offer will be 3 A levels, the AS level will whither on the vine
- The move to other qualifications such as BTEC is well documented but will funding rules allow the rebirth of the 2 A Level student (who may well have started 3)? Students who do badly in one of their subjects will be very problematic for sixth forms.
- Increased numbers crashing and burning on A level results day
- Increased numbers moving away from full-time HE and doing apprenticeships, school leaver programmes and jobs (this could be argued to be a good thing – at CLCH we feel this will depend on individual circumstances and what is best for the individual).
Barbara Hamnett, CLCH Associate notes that,
” the demographic downturn in the HE applicant cohort for the next 4+ years will help students during this period of considerable change.
Having been an AS sceptic at the start, I became a convert. It was a very useful measure of progress and in many cases became a key motivator for those less confident and/or less fortunate in their home and educational environments.
It was particularly useful where subjects new to the students were commenced in year 12. Choosing the right subjects is a key factor in success and this is where appropriate guidance is crucial.
I fear that with the new structure many more mistakes will be made which cannot be easily rectified”
Getting back to the Prince song, (where we started) we may have gone astray, but who needs time travel? In 1999 most sixth formers took three A Levels and 2016 it looks like that’s where we will be again. We feel that politicians from both sides of the house have somehow managed to take us on a circular tour, taking us from 1999 to 2016 back to 1999 again, spending millions (billions, possibly?) on the journey. What we can promise you is that Central London Careers Hub will be monitoring the journey and putting on events to help us deconstruct what is actually going on.
Report by Andy Gardner, Barbara Hamnett and Tim Miller