A-level results 2017: AS entries plummet as schools abandon 'decoupled' qualifications

Headteachers' union leader says "entirely unnecessary" reforms have sounded "death knell" for AS levels

News article image

The number of AS level entries in England have plummeted by 42 per cent this year - and school leaders are warning there is worse to come. 

This year's drop is steeper than last year (14.8 per cent) when the first “decoupled” AS levels - which do not towards final A-level grades - came in. 

And a new snapshot survey from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) released today suggests that 86 per cent of heads are looking to cut AS level courses in the future.

The poll, of more than 100 school leaders, shows that 65 per cent of respondents have already cut the number of AS level courses they offer since the process of ‘decoupling’ them from A levels began in 2015 .

Under government reforms being phased in across all subjects between 2015 and 2019, AS levels in England no longer count towards the full A level.


 

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said: “It is increasingly clear that government reforms have sounded the death knell for AS levels.

“Students now have to decide on their final three A level choices at the outset, and schools and colleges are increasingly focusing on these qualifications to maximise teaching time, rather than holding exams for AS levels in Year 12 which do not count towards the final grade.

“They are under severe funding pressures and cannot afford to run a suite of standalone AS levels."

He added: “The decision to decouple these qualifications was an entirely unnecessary reform which is narrowing the curriculum and reducing student choice.”

The JCQ has said today will carrying out research to look more closely at the impact of the reforms.

Michael Turner, the director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents exam boards, said: “The fall in AS entries in England, and the small decline in outcomes in the reformed subjects at A level, raises an interesting question about the relationship between the two qualifications and in particular the impact taking the AS has on performance at A level."

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes on Twitter and like Tes on Facebook

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you