Paul Redhead

An education revolution in seven bullet points

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 • In practice most of the changes are designed to make exams tougher. From a student’s perspective, the most challenging reform is the abolition of modular examining. All exams will be done at the end of the course, and retaking bits of the exam to improve overall grades just won’t be possible.

 • AS exams will continue but will not count towards A-level marks. Some schools will continue to use the exam as a useful target for students (in the ‘old days’ when A-level was ‘linear’ — that is, with exams at the end, rather than ‘modular’ with tests at regular intervals — students often took it pretty easy in lower sixth).

 • It’s unlikely that universities will require the new AS, because that would penalise students whose schools decide not to offer it — but if a student has taken the new AS, will those results (for better or for worse) have to be shown? We don’t know yet.

 • The new A and AS ‘specifications’ will be brought in over the next four years, key subjects first, with teaching starting in September 2015, and first new-style A-level exams in June 2017.

 • The revisions keep the same A*–E pass marks, but exams will include a wider range of question types, and coursework will be examined only if it is essential to assessing the subject.

 • A-levels not deemed to be ‘key subjects’ will undergo a ratification process over the next year or so which will see most of them survive, albeit often in a ‘tougher’ form. Some such as Environmental Science and Human Biology will probably be dropped, though Film Studies and Media Studies are not on the endangered list. Full details at specc.ie/examchangedetails

 • GCSE exams have already gone linear, and further changes lie ahead, with overhauled and often harder content and exams, and a new 9 (best) to 1 grading system. In particular, coursework will be cut back (GCSE Maths won’t involve any) and fewer subjects will offer ‘tiered’ exams — different exam papers aimed at higher or lower achievers. The timescale for changes is close to that for A-levels, and there’s a similar review of minority subjects.

Paul Redhead is a spokesman for the Council for Independent Education