Gove’s latest brainwave

Mr Gove continues with his policy of not letting anything alone, by suggesting universities should be dictating the content of A-levels.

I have some instinctive sympathy for the basic idea. Yes, A-levels have become more formulaic over time, and certainly the A-levels we see now are reduced in both content and difficulty from the ones I sat (in my subjects – don’t know about the others). I have heard from various sources that universities often find it hard to deal with the level of knowledge and skills of some of their intake (though personally I think that may have more to do with students not retaining, or being able to apply, the knowledge they had when they sat their exams.)  And while I think the recent scare stories relating to exam boards have been grotesquely exaggerated, there’s much to be said for not having a market economy in examinations.


(a) Gove suggests the universities review the content “every year”. How the **** are we supposed to develop teaching resources if it changes that often?

(b) Not all kids who take A-levels want to go to university – there are other “stakeholders” too. Sure, it’s not practical to make A-level syllabuses a free-for-all for universities, employers, educationalists and heaven forbid, even schools, teachers and students to contribute to – but nor am I convinced that giving exclusive control to the university sector is fair or sensible.

(c) And of course, he only means a minority of the university sector – the Russell group.  Why? If he doesn’t think the other universities play a valuable part in our HE system, why is the government ready to encourage people to take out huge loans to go to them?  If he does think they are worthwhile, haven’t they got a right to an input on qualifications too?

(d) Universities (particularly very selective ones) are often not exactly in touch with what 16 year olds starting sixth form are like. They weren’t even in my day.

(e) He wants grade deflation. Yes, that’s a good thing in the long term – we’ve got to the stage where many see ABB as “poor” grades, and that’s ridiculous. But years down the line, people won’t remember which year the deflation started, and people will be disadvantaged. If you’re going to reform them, call them, for example, 1, 2, 3 not A, B, C to make the distinction clear

(f) You can’t change A-levels in isolation. They tried changing one bit in isolation back when GCSEs came in. One of my friends got caught in that – she did new-style GCSEs (and the first round of them were, in my opinion, easier than current ones) and then had to do old-style A-levels that were designed to follow on from O-levels. Bit of a mismatch, she found!

Finally – JUST STOP CHANGING THINGS! Give it all a chance to settle down. And try consulting the people involved on the ground, rather than doing everything top-down.

This entry was posted in Educational Developments, Exams, Opinions, University Admissions and Careers and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gove’s latest brainwave

  1. imaginatemum says:

    What a heartfelt post. Agree with all of it. If only Gove would listen / have a bigger picture, less piecemeal approach to things.

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