Redefining the ‘gold standard’ in English education #Alevels


This Thursday will be A-level results day in England.

A-level exam for extremely bright students

How tough will A-levels be in 10 years?

A-levels have traditionally been considered the ‘gold standard’ for entry to an English university, particularly those that are members of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University Colleges (in London). Elsewhere I have mentioned the impact of medical school admission on A-level choices and how this might be linked to social mobility and gender-related issues.

The Government is currently reforming A-levels and the universities will be a key agent within this process, responsible for ensuring the content is of a standard that is appropriate at pre-degree level. Theoretically this should help link undergraduate inputs to outputs given the perceived variability across degree quality, which is becoming more visible as tuition fees in England rise and students and their parents become more aware of the relative value of university courses.

I posted a blog recently about a CBI report on different post16 options for students. I am personally coming around more to the view that higher level apprenticeships may be a viable option in place of university, depending on their quality. It seems that large employers are signing up for them, thought the tipping point will depend on the responsiveness of small and medium-sized businesses. This could be aided by strategic engagement with schools and colleges at a localised level.

Separately the group Headteachers Roundtable is developing with others a true English Baccalaureate, which they hope will span the notorious academic vs vocational divide in schools and colleges.

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