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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
A-level stress causes drop-outs
classroom
Drop-outs are caused by work overload, head teachers believe
By Education correspondent Sue Littlemore

Head teachers are warning that sixth-formers are dropping out of the new style A-level courses because of the pressures of the workload.

This year the government has introduced a new exam, the AS, which is worth half an A-level.

The new courses are supposed to encourage sixth formers to broaden their studies and take on more than the traditional three subjects.

Tracey Waggott
Tracey Waggott: "The workload was incredible"
The changes mean A-levels can now be taken in two parts.

And most youngsters are being encouraged to take at least four "half" A-levels in the first year of the sixth form.

But some headteachers say the extra workload has put their students under too much stress.

Tracey Waggott is one of the many sixth-formers at Malmesbury school in Wiltshire who has dropped one of her AS-levels.

She began the sixth form studying for four of the new half A-levels. But, in January she dropped chemistry.

She said: "The workload was incredible. I had to go home and work solidly until I went to bed. I was having no time away from it."


I found it quite stressful. There was a lot of pressure on us from that extra A-level.

Emily Hutton, 16
One in ten of the lower sixth at Malmesbury have already dropped one subject.

Emily Hutton, who is 16, said the workload was too much: "I found it quite stressful. There was a lot of pressure on us from that extra A-level.

"I found at the beginning of the course I could not cope with that."

Another sixth-former, Stuart Wright, who is 17, said he has cut back on leisure activities to keep up with the work.

"I play a lot of sport which I have to give up now to make sure I don't get behind," he said.

However head teachers do not want the new exams to be scrapped - but do want changes to take off the pressure.

George Turnbull
"Scripts will be marked on time" - George Turnbull
Malmesbury's head teacher, Malcolm Trobe, says the pressure on sixth-formers is leading them to drop a subject - which undermines the government's aim of increasing breadth of study.

He said: "One of the government's priorities is to give breadth but that would be reduced if we went back to three. It would be a step backwards."

There might be another problem. The new exams mean the exam boards need an extra ten thousand markers, and at the moment, they are still looking.

However, George Turnbull, of the awarding body - the Assessment & Qualifications Alliance - says the situation is under control.

He said: "We do have a shortage in subjects such as ICT and general studies, but we've had this situation before.

"It's been exaggerated slightly by the introduction of the new A-levels. But, as always, we will mark the scripts on time and the results will be issued on time."

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See also:

27 Jun 00 | Education
Pledge to boost skills
05 Oct 00 | League Tables
Drop-out rate for students
30 Mar 01 | Education
Concern over new A-level results
12 Feb 01 | Education
Comprehensives set for overhaul
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