Replace A levels with a broader baccalaureate, say business chiefs and academics

27th January 2014 at 11:42

A levels should gradually be replaced by a broader baccalaureate style of qualification, a committee of business and university leaders will recommend today.

The group, chaired by Sir Roy Anderson, a former rector of Imperial College London, is also calling for a new independent body of teachers, employers, academics and political parties to establish a long-term consensus on the school curriculum.
 
“Successful businesses have clear objectives and goals that they pursue consistently over time, yet changes in government make it difficult to achieve this for education,” Sir Roy said.
 
The advisory group, set up by the Pearson education company, notes that teachers and schools have been the subject of “continuous” change in the last three decades and says that the move away from A levels should be slow.
 
“The introduction of a broader curriculum at 16 needs strategic planning and a long implementation timeline,” the report argues.
 
“We believe a horizon of six to eight years would allow time for development, trialling and implementation, enabling teachers to fully understand the requirements.”
 
Its argument could be seen as a criticism of the coalition, which has opted to reform A levels over a much shorter time span without any attempt to broaden the curriculum they offer. Specific aspects of the government’s plans – such as the removal of AS levels from A levels have already been criticised by leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
 
The Pearson committee includes Sir David Bell, the former Department for Education permanent secretary – now vice-chancellor at Reading University – and leaders of businesses including BT, John Lewis and the National Grid.
 
It recommends that school assessment should be changed to reflect the fact that “non-cognitive skills and attributes such as team working, emotional maturity, empathy, and other interpersonal skills are as important as proficiency in English and mathematics in ensuring young people’s employment prospects”.
 
The report calls for the formation a national careers service and more staff exchanges between schools and employers to “enhance teachers’ engagement with the worlds of business and industry”.

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