Board unveils trimmer A-levels

30th September 2005 at 01:00
Two new ground-breaking A-levels are to be launched next year.

For the first time since the flawed reforms five years ago, teenagers will have to sit four papers instead of the current six in the revamped A-levels in law and accountancy.

The move comes after ministers pledged earlier this year to redress some of the problems of the Curriculum 2000 reforms by cutting the assessment burden on students and schools. However, they may prove controversial, as subject content has been cut in one exam.

The A-levels have been unveiled by the OCR board, England's third largest, for teaching from next September.

One of the biggest criticisms of Curriculum 2000 was the number of papers students had to take: three exams in Year 12 and three in Year 13.

Ministers acknowledged the problem in response to the Tomlinson report, when they announced that most subjects would be cut from six to four papers from 2008.

OCR has pre-empted the move, by introducing changes in subjects it believes lend themselves easily to a four-paper structure.

In law, the current three one-hour papers at AS are being replaced by one two-hour and one one-hour paper. At A2, instead of three 1.5 hour papers there will be a two-hour and a 1.5 hour paper.

In accounting, students will also now be required to take only two papers at AS, and two at A2, rather than the current three each.

Teachers involved in the changes say they will be much better for students, as a six-paper structure, which ministers insisted on as they sought to introduce a uniform template for all A-levels, never made much sense.

For example, questions on the legal defence of insanity appear in one paper, and those on diminished responsibility in another. In real life, the two defences are often linked, but the structure does not allow students to make the connection.

Under the new A-level, they are both covered in the same paper. Similarly, judges, juries and magistrates are currently asssessed on a separate paper from "the role of magistrates". Again, the anomaly has been redressed.

Leon Riley, head of student services at John Leggott college, Scunthorpe, said: "Students will have to sit fewer papers, resulting in less pressure, and that will allow teachers more time to focus on individual needs."

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