A Levels are set to change, and between now and 11th September there is an opportunity to raise questions and concerns on the Consultation Document (which can be downloaded here).
The Classics Library has a group dedicated to discussion on this issue. You are all members of this group and can comment on the proposals and questions in the Consultation Document within this group. This could be immensely valuable in gauging the response at large from Classics teachers, your concerns and worries, your questions and confusion. Please engage in discussion on the issue and help us all to explore and to find areas of focus via the group. As discussion progresses, you may feel empowered to write your response to Ofqual. At the same time JACT is observing your comments, and will compose its response to Ofqual through these.
To start this off, below is a short summary of the proposals and a first shot at some of the possible implications for Classics (kindly prepared by Catharine Jessop).
The main firm proposals of the document are:
- No more January exams. All exams to be sat in the summer
- One resit opportunity only
- Modular structure to be replaced with linear.
On the question of retention of AS levels there is no firm recommendation but three options are put forward:
- Remove AS and move to two-year linear course, all assessed at the end of the course;
- AS to be a standalone exam, results not contributing to A level (so A2 would be as in option 1)
- Retain AS as now (subject to changes in assessment structure as above).
A further question is whether to change the weighting as between AS and A2s from 50/50% to something like 40/60% to recognise the greater challenge of A2 exams.
The document further says that there will be no subject criteria in ‘key subjects’ although it is not clear which these are. Exam boards will be required to consult universities (and prove that they have done so) on the content of exams. Schools and colleges will be consulted only on pedagogical and practical considerations (not on the content). A new A level review board will be set up to review standards annually, with representation from universities but only ‘input’ from schools and colleges. A key aim will be to design exams so as to improve skills needed for university such as researching, essay writing, problem solving, analysis and critical thinking.
The timetable for changes: to start with priority subjects (not including Classics) from first teaching Sept 2014, rolling out subject by subject, all to be covered by 2018.
What are the implications for Classics? It is perhaps hard to say at this early stage, and the purpose of this discussion is to tease those out, but some thoughts to provoke initial discussion are:
- The move to a linear structure may seem well adapted for Latin and Greek which were perhaps never very suitable for modular assessment anyway. For Classical Civilisation or Ancient History teachers might feel that it would be considerably more challenging for pupils to be assessed on all topics studied at the end of the course, and might want to argue for a greater coursework element for that reason.
- There could be a threat to Classical subjects inherent in Option 2 for the future of AS levels (AS a standalone exam not part of A2). This could create practical and economic problems for schools if some pupils opted for AS and some for A2 and had to be taught separately, because this would lead to fragmentation of classes at year 12 and could make them unviably small. Some schools might opt (for this reason) to offer Latin only at A2, and this would lead to the loss of some pupils who now take Latin as their fourth AS, keeping open the option to continue it to A2. This could depend on how similar the specifications were for AS and A2 (i.e. would a pupil who had done AS and then decided they wanted to take A2 after all be in a position to do so?).
- How do we feel about having no input into the question of what topics we teach for Classical Civilisation or Ancient History A-level? The topics need of course to be feasible to teach in school, well enough resourced, and calculated to appeal to 16-year-olds? The same of course applies to set texts for Latin/Greek.
The Classics Library discussion group is located here: http://www.theclassicslibrary.com/news/groups/ofqual-a-level-reform-consultation-deadline-11912/. Members will need to be logged in to view and contribute to the discussion, which also ensures that the discussion is private to members of The Classics Library.
The Consultation document is located here: http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/files/2012-06-18-a-level-reform-consultation.pdf.