BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Education  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Examination debate is 'ill-timed'
John Dunford
John Dunford says talk of disaster and chaos are not helpful
The current debate over changes to the sixth form curriculum is ill-timed and unhelpful for those students currently sitting the first round of AS-level examinations, the Secondary Heads Association warns.

The changes, which see students sitting public examinations at age 17 and 18, have been widely debated - and criticised - in the media.


What I don't to see and I don't want to hear are these calls that AS-levels are a disaster - right in the middle of the exams

John Dunford
Students have spoken of a huge workload weighing them down, schools have complained of chaos as they try to accommodate an estimated 20% rise in exam sittings, unions have lamented a "confused and rushed" implementation procedure.

Even Nick Tate, the former head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority - which oversaw the changes - said students now faced "excessive" testing.

But John Dunford, general secretary of SHA, says the debate should not be taking place in the exam season.

exam hall
Students say they are overworked
"What I don't to see and I don't want to hear are these calls that AS-levels are a disaster, that the system's in chaos, that we ought to get rid of them - right in the middle of the exams.

"This when the young people themselves, who've worked hard this year, are concentrating on taking these examinations," Mr Dunford said.

Any new educational reform should be reviewed, he said, but maintained the need for a broader sixth form curriculum.

"I don't want to see a call for this exam to be stopped, I think it was a good reform - it was recommended by the Dearing report in 1996.

'Halfway-house'

"It was widely supported among teachers, employers and universities that we should have a broader sixth form curriculum and that we should have this halfway-house to A-level, which is very helpful," Mr Dunford said.

nick tate
Nick Tate: Thinks a wide-ranging review is needed
"By all means, let's have a review, let's see how it's gone, let's do better next time, but let's not throw a good reform overboard," he said.

He pointed out that by taking half of an A-level at age 17, pupils reduced the pressure put upon them at age 18.

The new system also gave students greater flexibility in their choice of subject.

"What's going to happen this summer is that people are going to be able to take those AS-levels at 17 and actually choose to carry on with some of those courses, give up some or maybe even take up new courses - now that enables them to make that choice later," Mr Dunford said.

'An exam too far'

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said AS-levels were "perhaps an exam too far" and called for a review of the situation.

"The AS-level was brought in to try to broaden students' horizons - there is some evidence that it's having the very opposite effect.

"It's driving out many other extra curricular activities, the sport, the drama, the music and things like, which is a great shame," Mr de Gruchy said.

The Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, Phil Willis, said there was an urgent need for a comprehensive review of the entire 14-19 exam structure.

"Whilst a widening of the qualifications structure is desirable and long-overdue, the hurried implementation of the AS level qualification has turned our young people into exam factory fodder," Mr Willis said.

See also:

11 Jun 01 | UK Education
06 Jun 01 | UK Education
05 Jun 01 | UK Education
25 May 01 | UK Education
02 Jun 01 | UK Education
30 May 01 | UK Education
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes