With exams watchdog Ofqual set to publish its recommendations on the future of A-levels this week, much debate has been taking place between Ofqual, the government, universities and people in education jobs regarding the future of the qualifications – and now the Russell Group has outlined its opinions.
In a statement ahead of Ofqual's guidance, the group of 20 leading UK universities revealed that it would back a move to make A-level a 'two strikes and you're out' affair, preventing students from taking multiple re-sits until they achieve the necessary grade.
The organisation also claimed that maths and English should be made more demanding and gave its approval to the removal of the current modular structure of A-levels.
Earlier this year, education secretary Michael Gove wrote a letter to Ofqual in which he said he felt universities should be more involved in setting A-level curricula so that students will be better prepared when they begin degree courses.
Welcoming Ofqual's consultation, Russell Group director general Dr Wendy Piatt said that this was something the organisation would consider carefully and was already looking at, but that issues of time and resources could be problematic.
Dr Piatt revealed that the Russell Group was largely in support of the consultation and feels it addresses many of its concerns regarding the A-level system.
One of these issues is the current modular format, which the Russell Group would like to abandon. Dr Piatt believes this creates a system of "bite-sized chunks" which are quickly forgotten by students and make grasping the overall nature of a subject harder.
She also said that the proposed reform to the number of re-sits students can take would be welcomed by universities amid concerns that those who don't get the grades on their first or second attempt do not achieve as well at university level.
"We think it’s fair that people are given a second chance if they have good reasons for under-performing in an exam, but more recently students have been allowed to do re-sits too frequently," she said.
Though the Russell Group stopped short of calling for AS levels to be scrapped, it did issue a warning about the quality of mathematics and English curricula, with maths deemed not tough enough and English too focused on 'emotional responses' to texts.
"Some modules are just not challenging enough to equip students not only to do a maths degree but also to go onto to degrees in engineering or physics," remarked Dr Piatt.
Posted by Tim Colman