Give AS a chance

6th July 2001 at 01:00
The discussion about AS-levels comes at a time when students and teachers are most likely to be stressed and negative. Also, the reporting of it has been unbalanced, with heads of independent schools interviewed more frequently than principals of sixth-form and tertiary colleges.

There will be teething troubles in any new system and the key skills fiasco has muddied the waters. However, not all the problems are due to the exams. Staff in my team were reporting a year ago that some teachers did not understand the exam or specifications. AS-levels did not appear suddenly. We have had time to prepare. In many subjects students have successfully taken modules in Year 1 for some time and without much angst about over-assessment.

Let's not forget what AS offers. It can offer breadth, and universities have the power to require this now. It offers the unacceptably high number who leave early worthwhile accreditation. It also enables mixing of "academic" and "vocational" qualifications. Of course, these students' needs will not interest selective independent schools and will pose timetabling problems for tiny sixth forms but do we always have to organise education to suit them? AS-levels should be given a chance.

Jim Grant Head of Humanities Cirencester College Stroud Road, Cirencester

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