Decoupling of the AS and A-level specifications remains a concern
By James Ludley,
Programme Development Officer, PSA
At the time of writing this piece, the Association is waiting on a reply from the new Education Secretary and new Universities Minister to concerns raised regarding the ongoing A-level reforms. The statistical data released by Ofqual for the A2 and AS-level entries this summer for Government and Politics in England, Northern Ireland and Wales only cements the growing concerns for the co-teachability of the AS and A-level specifications.
This year particularly, there was a large drop in the number of students sitting the A-level exam, but at the same time an extremely encouraging number of students have taken politics for their first year of study. Comparing this fresh data to previous years, there is broadly one continuing trend: retention for the subject from AS to the full A-level remains difficult, with this summer seeing a 40% drop in the number of students who took the AS (Year 12) exam in 2013 compared to the A2 (Year 13) exam this summer:
The present course content for Year 12 is arguably quite dry. As much as anything else, some teachers have highlighted this as one reason why they find it difficult to encourage students to continue the subject. It is largely for this reason that the PSA’s ‘speakers programme for schools’ continues to be a popular initiative in helping to: a) deliver depth to a topic of the school's choice; b) to aid teaching; but also c) to engage students who are potentially the future of the discipline.
It is good news that clearly more students are taking politics as an option for Year 12 and this is welcomed. However, if the subject remains a 4th ‘one-year-option’ for a large number of students and if the gap between AS and A2 entries widens further, then there is a genuine concern that under a reformed linear curriculum students will only opt to select 3 A-level subjects. In this scenario Government and Politics might be overlooked in favour of other subjects entirely. This is something that the Association has highlighted previously and raised with the Government.
Regardless of whether or not the reforms continue to go ahead beyond the outcome of the next General Election (May 2015), the Association must continue to play a role in supporting teachers to ensure Government and Politics is a valued and important element of sixth form study; explore ways to improve visibility of the A-level for Key Stage 4 students; and remain dedicated to making the case that the study of politics prepares students for many forms of employment, as well as further study.