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Adapt the current system

Consultation on the review of 16-19 qualifications officially ends today.

The issue of modular A-levels has come to the fore in consultation sessions because the wider subject of standards is on the back-burner, awaiting the outcome of separate research by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Sir Ron wants modular routes to have the same credibility on merit as traditional A-levels. A paper prepared by his review team for consultation sessions said modular A-levels motivated students, provided valuable information from module exams and may allow more comprehensive assessment of the syllabus. But it added they may be "easier" - not having lower standards, but providing an easier way to achieve the same standards via re-sits.

The paper also said it was difficult to assess a student's overall grasp of the course unless there were end-of-course tests known as "synoptic" assessment.

Parallel to the moves on AS-level is an initiative to create a "half" GNVQ at Advanced level, comprising six units.

The result of this move would be an A-level-sized GNVQ, with leisure and tourism split in two, and so on. There has also been discussion of a three- unit GNVQ, equivalent in size to the new AS-level.

The current "vertical" AS-level, in which students study half an A-level syllabus to full A-level standard, is almost certain to be replaced by a "horizontal" version covering the whole syllabus to a halfway stage.

Supporters of the move say this would add breadth and reduce wastage by providing a more manageable course which takes a single year.They see it as a mass market option that will become the norm alongside full A-levels and GNVQs. It would also provide a key format for "balancing" studies within a grouped certificate.

Dissent comes from groups who want the AS-level to equate to three modules of a modular A level.

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