STUDENTS who fail their A-levels in 2001 may be forced to wait a year to take resits and could find themselves being tested on material not covered on their courses.
Next September's change to modular A-levels has led at least one of the major examination board groupings to drop winter resits for the cohort of students who started their courses this year.
Students who opt for resits a year later will find themselves examined on new 2000 syllabuses - rather than the 1999 syllabuses they studied. In some cases, there may be changes to subject content not covered in their original courses. However, they may be able to take their resits in modular form over the whole of 2001-02, rather than all at once in the summer of 2002.
The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - which includes the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board, Associated Examining Board, and City and Guilds - has decided not to offer winter resits for students who fail to make the grade in 2001.
OCR - Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations - has yet to decide what provision it will make for student resits.
Ann Kitchen, chair of the Association of Maths Teachers and a research fellow at Manchester University, gave one example - the NEAB's maths 16-19 course - of an old style "linear" course which will not offer winter resits. Failing students will have to sit exams based on quite different, modular syllabuses, she claimed.
"In some of the maths courses, the syllabus has changed. The units students have done will vanish completely and won't be offered at all," she said.
George Turnbull, spokesman for AQA, confirmed that it would not be offering winter resits beyond 2001. He said the number of resits taken by students was "tiny," compared to AQA's 400,000 A-level entries. Students could take modules over 2001-02, or take all the relevant exams at one resit in the summer of 2002. More than half of current courses were already modular, he said.
"If students fail a linear or modular exam by 2001, they will need to start again on the new specifications, depending on how near their old course is to the new one.
"The content and way it's divided up could be different. Generally, the awarding bodies will be trying to keep as near as possible to current syllabuses in terms of content," he said.