Cambridge disputes government findings in A-level reform row

The University of Cambridge has waded into the row surrounding the government’s plans to reform A-Levels by arguing that they are a better predictor of success than GCSEs, whilst government research today suggests the opposite.

The university’s comments go against research by the Department of Education that found that GCSEs were a better predictor of success at university than AS-level exams. According to the DoE, these findings justify the proposed shake-up to A-Levels in their current form. The university argues that they will “jeopardise over a decade’s progress towards fairer access”.

Today’s developments come amid the continuing row over how best to test 16-18-year-old pupils in England. The University of Cambridge insists that AS-Level grades are used by admissions tutors when making provisional offers to sixth-form students. A spokesman said that the university’s own research concluded that AS-Levels are “conclusively” a “better predictor of success than GCSEs”.

The spokesman continued: “This is about more than just the admissions process. Loss of AS impacts on student choice, flexibility and deprives them of the chance to apply to university with confidence.

“AS examinations taken at the end of year 12 benefit students by permitting breadth and flexibility of subject-choice in the sixth form. They help students to make properly informed and appropriate choices about university applications, boosting those who lack confidence.”

The schools minister, David Laws, has argued in a letter to Labour that concerns over changes to AS-levels will harm university admissions are unfounded. The government has argued that A-levels and AS-levels currently do not help students to develop a deeper understanding of their subjects.

Starting from 2015, the government says AS-levels will not count towards full A-levels. They will continue to exist, though an A-Level grade will be determined by a linear exam sat after two years in the sixth form.

The spokesman added that some 10% of Cambridge entrants do very well at AS-level despite poor GCSE performance.

“If offers were to be based on GCSE results these students would not present a true picture of their ability, nor of their positive progress in sixth form. Around 75% of this group come from state schools and colleges.”

Labour has pledged to reverse many of the changes proposed by the coalition should they win the next election in 2015.

Story link: http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/5954

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