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New DES Minister gets to work on AS level concerns

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Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris today announced that she was asking David Hargreaves of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to take personal charge of a review of the implementation of the A level reforms after their first year.

She acknowledged the concerns being expressed in schools and colleges about the burdens being placed on students during the current examination season.

Ms Morris said: “These are the most fundamental reforms to advanced level qualifications for 50 years. Inevitably, not everything is yet right in the way they have been brought in and there will be lessons to be learnt.

“I remain committed to modernising the 16-19 curriculum. It is essential that our young people are equipped for the 21st century with a broad range of knowledge and understanding. We have rightly moved on from the old excessively narrow sixth form curriculum – it was simply not enough. I will expect schools to continue teaching the broader curriculum, including AS, from September.

“But we need to make sure that the new qualifications maintain their rigour whilst not placing unreasonable burdens of assessment on students, or on schools or colleges.

“I am, therefore, asking the QCA to look urgently with schools, colleges and awarding bodies at the best way of delivering the new qualifications. I look forward to receiving their report during July, and will then be able to think carefully about what action needs to be taken. Their conclusions can help lead to improvements in the delivery of the second year of the examinations from this autumn.

“The Key Skills qualification appears to have caused particular difficulty for many, despite the setting up of a major programme of guidance and support for schools and colleges to support its introduction. The review will include a detailed evaluation of Key Skills.

“Don’t forget that we have not taken a prescriptive approach – we have not laid down a single model to be followed by all students and institutions. No option is compulsory. The mix of qualifications and range of subjects taken is a matter for students, parents, teachers and colleges to decide together.”

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