Eton College has made the move. So has The Perse School. Away from A levels to IALevels – advanced level exams designed for the international market.
And more independent schools will follow according to the Telegraph
. The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference said IALevels offered stability at a time of change and uncertainty.
It could be a shrewd move – the proposed A levels are being implemented hurriedly. There appears to be no trialling, evaluation or gradual implementation. IALevels are flexible – pupils can take AS-level exams after one year and A2 in the following year. These combine to form an overall A-level result. Or schools can choose whether pupils sit exams after two years.
Reformed A levels, on the other hand, split AS level from A level and are examined at the end of the course. There is little, if any, coursework. Cambridge University claimed scrapping AS levels would “harm English pupils
” earlier this year.
But there are risks. Universities are contributing towards the new A levels. They are hardly likely, therefore, to say they are inferior to alternatives. At the same time, Universities might not accept IALevels. UCAS
says iALevels have equivalent value and “may be accepted” in lieu of UK A levels. But that word “may” implies a level of doubt.
So what possible alternatives are there to A levels? They include:
is already available for pupils wishing to enter university. As well as the traditional two-year course, there are one-year short courses and a Global Perspectives and Research option which extends pupils’ learning.
covers the entire age range. MiniBac is designed for primary schools, MidBac for upper primary/lower secondary. These focus on achievement and progress. At age 14-19 the focus shifts to qualifications linked to the national qualifications framework
. ModBac is flexible: schools can adopt or adapt existing programmes such as ASDAN
programmes or RSA Opening Minds
. It can also be used to validate apprenticeships.
combines A Level subjects with wider learning and enrichment.
4The Government’s proposed TechBac
to be introduced for courses beginning September 2014 comprises 3 elements: a vocational certificate; a maths qualification at Level 3 and an extended project.
5City and Guilds TechBac
to be launched in September 2014. It’s a vocational programme designed to develop core technical knowledge and skills.
(IB) is a longstanding international examination with a high reputation. It is only available in authorized schools. An IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC) is designed to meet the needs of students studying vocational courses.
vocational examinations from Entry/Level 1 to Levels 4-7 (eg Higher Nationals).
A bewildering offering (and I may have missed some). So Labour proposes a National Baccalaureate
to combine the best ideas of the options above and bring “coherence, clarity and common standards” to a confused system.
The Headteachers’ Roundtable, in its education election manifesto
, recognises the current arrangements are fragmented, perplexing and erect barriers. Special needs students (SEN) find it difficult to achieve success, for example. The Roundtable proposes an “umbrella qualification” using the National Baccalaureate framework. It would encompass technical and academic learning, a personal development programme and an extended project. It would have tiered outcomes: Entry Level, Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced. All students would continue studying English and maths – these subjects could easily be incorporated into existing A level and BTEC courses.
The Roundtable’s proposal is ambitious and inclusive. It does not pitch vocational against academic. Neither does it imply the latter is somehow better than the former. And it recognises that the final examination goal for all pupils will not be at age 16 but at 18 in line with most of the developed world.
11.13am. The original article referred to both iALevels and IALevels. The headline also referred to iALevels. I've changed all iALevels to IALevels. Thanks to FJM for pointing this out.
ADDENDUM. The original headline was "As independent schools consider moving to IALevels instead of the proposed A levels, are there other qualifications for age 18?"