A-level coursework cut back


A report published by Ofqual recommended that coursework for A levels should only be used when formal tests are not appropriate to assess pupils’ skills in subjects such as art and geography fieldwork.

Instead, pupils will be assessed almost entirely through traditional end-of-course exams as part of sweeping changes to A-levels sat by around 300,000 teenagers each year.

The report warned that coursework marks in other subjects such as English and history will also be capped at 20 per cent and practical skills will be assessed but not count towards final grades in the sciences.

In a significant step, Ofqual also suggested that rules surrounding the administration of coursework would be tightened up to stamp out malpractice by teachers and pupils.

Currently, pupils usually get a window of several weeks to complete coursework tasks, but Ofqual suggested this allowed some to over-prepare.

In the future, schools and colleges could be forced to conduct all assessments at the same time.

A separate report by Ofqual further recommends changes to course specifications, because many academics feared that students lacked some of the general skills essential for undergraduate learning. It forms part of a wider shake-up of qualifications taken by 16- to 18-year-olds in England.

The review reserves some of the biggest changes for history A-levels - students will be required to study topics from a chronological range of 200 years – rather than 100 at the moment – because of concerns that previous courses were too narrow.

Other changes include:

  • A greater focus on social, historical and regional varieties of English as part of new English language A-levels;
  • Introducing a “non-literary” text, such as a piece of journalism, into the combined English literature and language A-level course; 
  • Introducing more advanced maths into subjects such as computing, economics, geography and the three sciences – biology, chemistry and physics;
  • Reintroducing traditional fieldwork to geography A-levels to ensure pupils “relate their learning to real experiences of the world”;
  • Placing a greater focus on drawing in art courses;
  • Renaming business studies as “A-level business” and turning computing into “computer science”, with more focus on developing “computational thinking skills

New A-levels in the subjects will be introduced in September 2015, with first exams being sat in 2017.

The review does not cover maths, further maths and foreign languages, which are seen as the subjects in need of the most significant overhaul.

School Leadership Today