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News - 12 August 2013

Headteachers: A-level changes are 'high-risk'

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) is concerned about A-levels being introduced in 2015 without trialling them first. Under the proposed changes, all A-levels will become linear, with exams at the end, with details of the new qualifications available only a year before they are first taught.

Dr William Richardson, general secretary of the HMC, said: "It is a huge gamble to rush so much change at high speed with no piloting."

He added: "It is high-risk. You can't be sure of the consequences."

His warning comes a few days before candidates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland get their A-level results, which are not expected to rise significantly and may even drop slightly as a clampdown on grade inflation continues.

But it is the "accelerated timetable" of the reforms that most worries the HMC.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Our reforms will raise standards. Ofqual is aiming to make details of reformed A-levels available in autumn 2014, a year in advance of first teaching so schools will have plenty of time to prepare."

Lavinia Newman, founder of ABDS comments:
“Ofqual, England's exams regulator, has just published its plans for the coming exam reforms, including those to A-levels. It said it did not plan to recalibrate A-level performance standards in the same way as it will materially change GCSE standards.”

But Ofqual said that as new A-levels were introduced it would look at making the number of high grades (As and A*s) as "comparable and consistent as possible" from year to year.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: "This is a very interesting time for qualifications, with real opportunities to deliver materially better qualifications, both general and vocational, that will better prepare people for the next stages in their education or careers.

If you need any help and advice with Free School or Academy Schools, contact Lavinia Newman or Peter Ham now to discuss how ABDS can help bring their experience to these matters.

ABDS Chartered Certified Accountants of Southampton.
Tel: 023 8083 6900  E-mail:

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