Private schools 'consider dropping A-levels'

A level exams New A-levels are set to be introduced in two years' time

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Some top independent schools in England are considering dropping A-levels for an international alternative, as concerns grow over exam reforms.

A number of private schools say they are looking at international A-levels, which would still allow pupils to take AS-levels halfway through the course.

From 2015, AS-levels are to be separated from full A-levels to form a qualification in their own right.

Ministers say the changes will encourage greater depth of study.

But last week, the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents around 250 independent schools in the UK and Ireland, said it was concerned about the new system being introduced without a trial period.

It warned plans for rapid changes to A-levels were "high-risk" and a "huge gamble".

International A-levels

Now some fee-paying schools have told the Times Educational Supplement website tes.co.uk they are looking at international A-levels as a way of continuing the AS-level system.

Start Quote

Why wouldn't we look at international A-levels?”

End Quote Bernard Trafford Head of Royal Grammar School

International AS and A-levels in 60 subjects are offered by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).

As with the current A-level system, students can take international AS courses as qualifications in their own right, or as part of a full international A-level.

Andrew Grant, head of the private St Albans School in Hertfordshire, told tes.co.uk: "I know I am speaking for many of my colleagues in HMC when I say we will look for a way of continuing the AS-level system.

"We at St Albans School are looking very, very seriously at international A-levels because we feel there is a tremendous value in the feedback provided by AS-levels at the halfway point."

Freedom

Bernard Trafford, head of the private Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, said independent schools have the freedom to choose the qualifications they want to offer.

"Whenever we are unhappy with a syllabus or exam we can quickly start to look around to see what else is out there. Why wouldn't we look at international A-levels?"

He said this was what private schools did when there were concerns over GCSEs and now many private schools used international GCSEs instead.

Michael O'Sullivan, chief executive of CIE, said: "We're pleased Cambridge International AS and A-level has received interest from leading independent schools in the UK and expect this trend to continue as schools look at alternatives in times of reform.

"The structure... is tried and tested, with our AS-level counting to students' final exam."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "By putting universities in charge of A-levels we are ensuring they match the world's best and prepare children for work and higher education.

"Linear A-levels will end the constant treadmill of exams and ensure pupils develop a real understanding of a subject."

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