Risk aversion gives better grades

GOVERNMENT PLANS to change the way A-level maths and further maths are graded will lead to a collapse in the number of students taking the harder exam, subject experts are warning.

Changes mooted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, for introduction possibly within a year, represent a "death wish" for the subject, with knock-on problems for A-level maths, it is claimed.

Currently, students can take further maths secure in the knowledge that if they do badly, this will have no impact on their standard A-level maths grade. This is because the grading system gives them separate marks for maths and further maths.

Under the proposals, all their marks across the maths and further maths papers will be added up and a combined mark given. This means if a student were to underperform in their further maths papers, it could have a knock-on effect and result in a lower maths A-level grade than if they had not taken further maths.

Experts say all but the very best students will respond to the new system by deciding not to take further maths and risk their A-level maths grades, which are central to university entrance. So further maths candidate numbers, which showed the largest improvement of any A-level last summer, will collapse. And maths A-level will be damaged by students choosing not to study further maths material.

Maths in Education and Industry, a curriculum development body, has published papers arguing that the move will be a disaster for the subject.

The Mathematical Association has written to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority backing this position. A spokeswoman said the QCA would meet maths subject associations early next month to consult on its plans.

The changes could be introduced by next year. However, the authority would want to consider the possibility of any unintended consequences.

The spokeswoman added: "We will not be doing this if it's going to disadvantage candidates."

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