Warning over 'two-tier' A-level overhaul

classroom Ucas fears universities will prefer those subjects overhauled at a early stage of the revamp

Related Stories

An overhaul of A-levels could lead to a two-tier system with students suffering discrimination because of their subject choice, ministers are being warned.

Proposals have been tabled to bring in new-style A-levels on a subject-by-subject basis over a number of years.

But the university admissions service, Ucas, says subjects revamped at a later stage could lose value and suffer "lasting damage" as a result.

Ministers say they are responding to concerns about A-level standards.

The admissions body also warns that there is a risk that if the new courses are seen as tougher, students could be put off, leading to a fall in demand.

Ucas raises the concerns in its response to Ofqual's consultation on A-level reform.

Ofqual is seeking views on proposals to bring in the first new A-level courses in 2014 in some "priority subjects" , with other courses introduced between 2015 and 2018.

Ucas says there is a risk these "early phase subjects" may be preferred by universities.

This could could create "a two-tier situation where some subjects lose value, and students may be discriminated against because of subject choice", it said in its response.

'Tougher' A-levels

Ucas argues that there is also a risk that if new specifications are perceived to be more difficult, students might steer clear of the key subjects.

This is what happened to A-level maths as a result of reforms known as Curriculum 2000, Ucas adds.

Its chief executive, Mary Curnock Cook, said: "We have reform of A-levels on the table. I don't think we know what is actually going to be done yet, but the kind of mood music is tougher A-levels.

"I know Curriculum 2000 was 10 years ago, but have people forgotten that if you make A-levels tougher, you will depress participation and you will depress achievement?

"So if A-levels are still the key currency for progression to higher education we just need to have that on our radar screen."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Academics in our best universities have been clear that there are serious problems with A-levels and they are not preparing pupils properly for rigorous degrees.

"Ofqual have recently consulted on A-level reform. We will await the outcomes of their consultation and set out our reforms in due course."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Education & Family stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.