A fudge job

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Will somebody tell us how they actually arrived at the standards for this year's AS-level grades?

There was no previous form for awards at the new, hypothetical, A-level standard (based on two terms' work in a major transition year). So, how are we to have confidence that the AS-level results are not just a cautious statistical fix based on last year's marginally-lower A-level results?

This might be fine if we were dealing with similar cohorts and entry patterns, except that the new system was meant - and has proved - to be a different set of options for different cohorts. ASA-level awarding has always been based on observed quality of work, rather than statistics, and there was no work available previously graded at the new lower level to set the standards for this year's AS awards.

So how was it done, and what about next year when the new AS modules are to be: scooped up into a single, first-year, three-hour paper, though they will still be available as separate modules in JanuaryJune for those who might want to do it that way; or deferred, to be taken in the second year alongside the A2 modules graded at the full gold standard.

This is a nightmare scenario in grading at both levels. Attempting to reconcile widening the post-16 curriculum with the A-level gold standard has proved to be an elaborate fudge. This exam model should be reviewed in favour of a simpler, International Baccalaureate approach.

Keith Davidson Council member of the College of Teachers (formerly an examinations board senior officer) 16 Sebright Road Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire

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