As most of you will be aware, it has been confirmed that the AS and A2 are being decoupled from September 2015, essentially meaning that the AS will return to a standalone qualification rather that part of a full A Level. In addition to this, beginning in September 2015, modular examinations will be replaced with a linear system, in essence, meaning the girls will be assessed at the end of Upper Sixth alone rather than at the end of Lower Sixth and again at the end of Upper Sixth – a return to the system of A Levels that you and I did when we were at school.
There is no doubt that this presents us as a school with a challenge and your daughters as students with a challenge. Our job, at St Martha’s is to take a look at this situation and ensure the path that we take places our girls in the strongest possible position when it comes to applying to university but also takes into account the way in which perform strongest in assessments.
The whole process has been complicated by a variety of factors. Some schools who offer what has been described as a ‘mixed economy’ of IB, A Level and Pre U courses are simply continuing with this. Some schools are delivering the AS in all subjects in Lower Sixth and then choosing the three subjects to continue and others are offering a combination of both of these.
I have attended a number of meetings, consultations and debates on this issue that have shaped my view on this in relation to St Martha’s. I know that different schools will adopt different positions but what has been central in my mind is making sure whichever model we adopt for St Martha’s will be right for the girls we have in our classroom rather than worrying about league table performance or other external factors. I have asked our Heads of Faculty to explore the various avenues open to them in each of the subjects we offer and a great deal of discussion has taken place internally at St Martha’s about which route is best for us to take.
When taking this pragmatic approach it has become clear which system plays to the strength of our staff and girls. You will recall that at our Sixth Form Open evening we made it clear that we would be asking the girls to choose four subjects and this remains the case for the majority. I am aware that some of our girls will wish to study five and others focus on three, but the fact remains that universities will only make offers based on the subjects they are studying at A Level and will not build AS Levels into any offer. I am of course keen to ensure that our girls are not disadvantaged when it comes to university applications and so it is our believe that by asking the girls to make a decision at Christmas in Lower Sixth of what subject they would like to complete to AS and which three they would like to take to A level provides them with something different. It also enables us to have five straight terms of teaching without the disruption of examinations in the summer term of Lower Sixth. This does mean that we will continue to track and monitor their progress on a regular basis, using opportunities like internal and end of year examinations to provide us with the information we need to analyse where they are in each of the subjects they are studying.
I have long been concerned that our girls begin a process of between three and eight years of continual assessment from Year Eleven depending on their choice after A Level. Examination results are vital but they are not the only aspect I want our girls to take from their seven years with us at St Martha’s. I believe the newly reformed A level system, with its emphasis on terminal exams, provides an excellent opportunity for St Martha’s girls to develop the intellectual maturity, agility and independence of mind which universities have long been asking for.  Freeing up Lower Sixth, will allow our girls to focus on wider and deeper learning, not just exam preparation. It will also give our girls more teaching and learning time and a much needed and highly desirable exam-free year.

25/03/2015 Comments (0)