I don’t know what made me wince more as I roused, goosebumped from my pit this morning. Was it the frosting of brilliant-white snow blown in by a stiff nor’ easterly that pierced my inky eyeballs and seared into my frontal lobe, or was it news of Michael Gove’s latest blitzkrieg on the education system that shivered my timbers so?
Yes, under a major overhaul of the system, Gove wants to see a return to end-of-course exams for A-levels whilst AS-levels will be cut free to become stand alone qualifications. The move would mean all-or-nothing showdown exams at the end of two years’ study for sixth form students, the giant teddy being spiralling student debt, the goldfish-in-a-bag even less appealing.
The proposals, which roll back over a decade of Labour reform, are expected to come into force in Autumn 2015 and would also see a greater role for Universities – spearheaded by the Russel Group – in setting the agenda for A-level content, something critics have already dismissed as elitist and rooted in Tory ideology.
Gove’s vision is to restore academic rigour to qualifications amid claims that current A-levels are inadequate in preparing students for the demands of Higher Ed, with some universities complaining that school-leavers lack basic skills and subject knowledge. Two years study, says Gove, will force students to think deeper about subjects and better prepare them for University life.
Strange then that teachers and employers have not raised any concerns about the A-level system as it stands, let alone the students themselves. I wonder, has he bothered to ask?
We have – we spoke to one Bristol Student, Rory, asking him what he thought of the plans. “I’m confused, to be honest.” said Rory, currently going through his AS studies.
“The changes won’t affect me, but I think I have more choice than future students as I can sit up to five AS-levels and see how I do before I choose which ones I take on to A-level. In the future they [students] won’t have that choice.”
“I also think having one major exam at the end of two years will be hard on students as the pressure will be enormous and not everyone is suited to sitting exams.”
For me, these proposals heap yet more pressure on squeezed working class school leavers by narrowing their options for future study. If anything the system should be widened to allow more scope for learning, training and career development beyond that which Michael Gove is obsessed with, and blinkered by.