Mixed views on exams plan

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A shake-up to A-levels has had a mixed response from education officials in Sunderland.

England’s exams watchdog Ofqual has announced a move to summer-only exams and pupils will only be allowed to take one resit.

This is the first of what are expected to be widespread changes to the exams taken by 18 year olds.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Tory spokesman for education on Wearside, said: “A-levels must be fit for purpose in terms of preparing pupils for academic courses at university so it is right that multiple resits are brought to an end as this has been one of the main reasons for grade inflation.

“Also, one exam in the summer is sufficient to test the course and this will allow pupils to study in more depth without an exam hanging over them and their teachers twice a year.

“Multiple resits are already being discounted by some competitive courses as universities realise that there is a difference between a pupil who passes the first time and one who needs several attempts.”

However, Mike Johnson, spokesperson for Sunderland NASUWT, National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said Ofqual has shown no definitive evidence that the changes to A-levels are needed and that teachers and students would now face huge turbulence and uncertainty.

He said: “Reducing resit opportunities would disadvantage pupils and the Government seems determined to reduce the A-level to an elite university entrance exam rather than a qualification for all young people.

“A-levels should remain broad enough to prepare students for the next stage of life, whether in higher education, employment or other forms of education. A-levels should not be viewed exclusively as a university entrance exam.”

And, Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for children and families, said: “Changes to exams must strengthen rigour, but also promote breadth in skills and knowledge as well as creativity, because that is what the job market of the future will require. A-levels also need to be geared towards preparing students for higher education, where mid-term essays and exams are commonplace.

“As with the changes to GCSEs, I also worry that these reforms will make it harder for young people with certain special educational needs and disabilities, who might struggle to memorise a whole course and sit and regurgitate it in three hours, to get the grades their abilities deserve.”

The scrapping of January exams and the limit on resits come in from September 2013, but they will affect students who began their A-level studies this September. They will not have January exams in their second year as expected.

Twitter: @sunechoschools