Monday, 24 March 2014

The ever changing education system.

Here I am again about two months too late. Once more life seems to get in the way of any kind of sensible writing (if you can call this sensible) and quiet.

In approximately 8 weeks our eldest son, Ben, will sit his A levels (or A2s as they are sometimes referred to here). It is quite mind blowing that his first, and last, two years in school are nearing an end. How he has fared I will leave for another post, perhaps I'll ask him to write one, if I can catch him at home for long enough once he's 'free' again!

Much to my surprise (and to be honest, relief) the A levels are yet again, being reformed. From September 2015 the A level course will be linear; assessment only after two years, rather like it was when I did my A levels all those years ago.  The AS level will be retained but will be a qualification in itself and so one can no longer go and and complete a second year and turn it into an A level as Ben has done.

Additionally there is no longer any January exams available. Ben has decided to re-sit one Unit of his first year and instead of being able to do this in January just past, he has had to add it to his final exams which has caused some extra pressure and worry. (More on my part it must be said but then is it not a Mother's job to worry?)

Are these sensible and beneficial changes? I feel more at ease with two years for A levels with no break for exams after what is really about 6 months. When Ben went into sixth form to study A levels, he found himself after five tender months being told to begin preparing and revising for the summer exams. It is much to take on and most students (especially having gone from GCSEs which they do in schools and are a poorer standard than the IGCSEs) have a tremendous shock at the work load and the standard required of them to pass these exams well.
Here the home educated student is at an advantage- they have already learnt to work independently and do not need constant guidance in their research and learning. The depth of learning and requirements is a huge  difference for A levels- the schooled child suddenly finds they are no longer spoon fed but feeding themselves.

So reforming the A levels to a two year course seems a good option to me. It allows the student to master their subject more deeply and become proficient at answering the exam questions and learning content more assiduously without the constant reminder of threatening exams after only a few months.

A levels remain well respected for their rigour and Universities require them and prefer them to other qualifications. If your student is seriously considering University, especially a Russell Group one, then it might be worth considering the more traditional A levels rather than the 'soft' options.

It feels like yesterday when Ben made his debut into school for the first time ever. Now he is nearing the end and will, after a year doing some voluntary work and seeing the world, enter a new phase of his life; most probably University and I'm sure there will be a tale to tell about that too...

May the most Holy Family keep all our dear children ever in their prayers, and guide and govern them in their studies with discernment and good judgement.