A-level reforms to go baccalaureate route

March 19, 1999

Ministers were expected to pave the way to a new European baccalaureate-style advanced level qualifications system with the announcement today of reforms to broaden 16 to 19-year-old study.

The reforms to A levels and vocational qualifications will allow students to take a wider range of qualifications, mixing and matching between vocational and academic qualifications and embracing arts and sciences.

Plans for an "overarching certificate" that would record students' partial and full achievement in a wide range of vocational and academic qualifications are being developed separately by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which will report to ministers in June. This certificate could closely resemble the European baccalaureate, preserving the "gold-standard" A level in name only, as part of a wider certificate.

From September next year students will be encouraged to take up to five subjects in the first year of sixth form. New "advanced supplementary" qualifications, worth half a full A level, could be taken at the end of the first year of post-compulsory study. This will enable students to study both sciences and arts, and focus on more narrow areas in the second year.

The Advanced General National Vocational Qualification, considered to be worth two A levels, will also be reformed. A six-unit Advanced GNVQ would be worth one full A level. It is hoped this will encourage students to study vocational courses alongside more academic courses. A new key skills exam will also be introduced.

The reforms were expected to surprise few, with the details first proposed in 1996.

Nick Tate, page 12

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