Many pupils reject key skills

14th September 2001 at 01:00
PUPILS have valued the flexibility offered by the new post-16 AS- level system despite the heavy workload and frenetic exam pressure, new research reveals.

But they voted with their feet over key skills - skipping lessons and exams in large numbers.

The research, presented this week at the British Educational Research Association's conference in Leeds, drew on interviews from hundreds of pupils and teachers in the first year of post-16 reforms.

Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours found that students valued the choice offered by taking four or more subjects at AS-level, before narrowing to three in their second year of study. The fourth subject was usually seen as a "safety net", although choice was often limited in small sixth forms - much to students' irritation. Teachers saw the reforms as providing greater breadth of study, not flexibility, and politicians have been keen to encourage students to follow academic and vocational courses, general studies and key skills.

But students rejected the "pick and mix" approach and have resented attempts to prescribe what they saw as a post-compulsory curriculum, and voted with their feet over key skills.

They were "prepared to resist qualifications which they thought had been imposed on them, had little use-value, added to their workloads and had little external value".

This won't change unless the first year workload is made more manageable and there are incentives for students to broaden their studies, say the researchers. These could include universities saying they want to see a mix of science and arts courses, or that they value key skills qualifications.

BERAconference, pages 8-9 "How is it for you? the learners' experience of Curriculum 2000", by Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours, of the Institute of Education, London University

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