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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 12:04 GMT 13:04 UK
Students reject AS-level review
Exam room
Many students had exam clashes this summer
Sixth form students expressed disappointment at the government's changes to the new AS-level examinations, saying they did not go far enough and would do nothing to ease pressure and stress.

The introduction of the new exams - taken for the first time by youngsters in Year 12 this summer - was condemned by students, teachers, parents and unions as a shambles, with some candidates sitting up to nine exams in one day.

I think this is just touching the edge of the issue really

Louise Massey
Following the interim report of an inquiry by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, said the exams would be "rationalised" from September with a single paper of up to three hours replacing large numbers of shorter exams.

Early exams - particularly those held in January - would become the exception rather than the rule, exam timetables would be shaken up to minimise clashes and Key Skills exams would be revamped, she said.

Ms Morris has asked David Hargreaves, head of the QCA, to examine course content from September.

But the students themselves had hoped for more radical changes.

Workload goes on

Louise Massey, Year 12 pupil at Woldgate School and Sixth Form College in Pocklington, near York, was unimpressed by the minister's announcement.

Estelle Morris
Estelle Morris was under pressure to review the situation
"I think this is just touching the edge of the issue really.

"For me the main issue was the intense workload - and hence pressure - and by putting all the exams into one, it's not going to change the impossible syllabus.

"And I don't see how this one change is going to prevent a repeat of the impossible system which we have witnessed and suffered this year."

Louise said she was worried about the year ahead and expected many students would want to retake their AS-levels because of poor grades - adding to the pressure upon them.

'Too late for me'

Her peer, Rosie Williams, 17, said the changes came too late for her.

"I've still had an utterly stressful year," she said.

"It's still been a lot of pressure for us and I think people forget that we've been the experimented year throughout our school lives because the government initiatives are always tested on us."

Among other things her generation was also the first to experience the new national curriculum and the first to face national tests at the age of seven.

It's a partial answer, but not an answer

Jeff Bower, head teacher
"This is the fifth time we've been experimented on now, starting at the age of seven and I think people just forget about that<" Rosie said.

"We've still got another year to go of A2s which seem just as uncertain as the AS-levels," she said.

Hertfordshire student Kieran Nunn, who sat AS-level exams this summer, said the decision to roll shorter exams into one three-hour paper would make little difference.

"This summer, if you didn't take a unit in January - which the majority of schools didn't - you took both units consecutively.

"So you'd have an hour and a half exam followed straight away by another hour and a half exam, and then the next day it was the same and the next day it was the same again," he said.

'Partial answer'

Commenting on the changes to the system, head teacher of Woldgate School, Jeff Bower, said: "It's a partial answer, but not an answer".

"The number of exams has been the headline issue in terns of stress on students, but there are at least three other issues it will not touch," Mr Bower said.

"The first is that the volume of work appears to be the same and therefore the stress on the students will be the same - examining in a different way won't change that.

"The second is that the resource implications on schools in terms of staffing and more clashes will not be affected and the third is that the stress load on teachers will not be affected," he warned.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris
"We can't get away from those sixth form years being a bit of a pressure"
The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"There have been a lot of mistakes"

Exams slashed
Do the changes go far enough?

The latest on the new post-16 qualifications
Post-16 overload?

See also:

11 Jul 01 | UK Education
21 May 01 | UK Education
11 Apr 01 | UK Education
30 May 01 | UK Education
12 Jun 01 | UK Education
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