The academy's role in A-level 'devaluation' (1 of 2)

November 11, 2010

Your leader, "Time for a return to entry duty?" (4 November), rightly calls upon universities to play a part in shaping A-level qualifications. But let us not be tempted to join the clamour of voices talking of "the devaluation of the currency of the A level".

In 25 years of teaching A levels, I believe that young people have never worked as hard as they have since the introduction of the AS/A2. Speedy feedback on performance due to modularised exams and greater awareness of the seriousness of the task in hand mean that students spend more time at their books and in lessons. Curriculum 2000 has broadened the standard choice to four subjects in year one (and often in year two).

True, there is something to be said for the criticism of too much assessment and not enough learning and thinking; too many teachers "teach to the test". But perhaps the root of this problem lies in the clumsy league-table assessment of schools and colleges, driven by local markets in education and an inspection system which, starved of resources, is driven to analyse data, not develop teaching.

Might the academy also be at fault? It asks for an exam system that both provokes deep thinking and divides performance neatly into percentages, allowing it to admit students predominantly without interview.

Jonathan Prest, Principal, Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, Eastleigh, Hampshire.

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