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Introduction of new maths A-levels put back a year

Ministers have agreed to delay the introduction of new maths A-levels by a further year after concerns were raised by the exams regulator, universities and headteachers.

The decision to put back first teaching of the courses until September 2017 follows worries that the previous 2016 date would have left the first batch of pupils under-prepared for the new qualifications.

They would have taken the existing maths GCSE, which is scheduled to be replaced by a new tougher version coming into schools next September.

Last month Isabel Nisbet executive director of the A-level Content Advisory Board, said: “ALCAB has concluded that the new AS/A-level mathematics content is suitable for the new qualifications, if the first teaching is no earlier than 2017. This is primarily because of the alignment with the new GCSE.

“New GCSE maths is very different from its predecessor and we felt the first cohort doing the new maths must have progressed from the new GCSE not the old.”

The Association of School and College Leaders has backed the call and Ofqual has written to ministers warning that the current maths GCSE does not have the “building blocks” needed to prepare pupils for the problem-solving content in the new maths A-level.

Today Nick Gibb, school reform minister, wrote to Glenys Stacey, Ofqual chief executive and accepted that many in the “mathematics community” shared that view.

“I am content to accept your recommendation to defer first teaching of the new mathematics and further mathematics A/AS levels until September 2017,” his letter says.

“I have taken this decision to give mathematics students the best opportunity to benefit from the new qualifications at GCSE and A level, and in particular recognition of the importance of mathematics as a route to a wide range of valuable higher education courses.”

His move is the latest concession from the Department for Education over the pace of sweeping changes to A-levels and GCSEs.

The new maths A-levels were originally due for first teaching from 2015. But in September 2013 they were put back to 2016 after a report found that "fundamental work" was needed to improve them.

In February it was decided to delay the introduction of a new geography A-level from 2015 to 2016 for similar reasons.

The introduction of new science, history and geography GCSEs has also been delayed from 2015 to 2016. 

Ms Stacey said: “By delaying the introduction of new AS and A level mathematics and further mathematics qualifications for a year, students will have studied first the reformed GCSEs, which will better prepare them for the updated A level content.”

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