Gove’s ‘A’ level suggestions: brief comments

Michael Gove’s wish for universities to be more involved in setting ‘A’ levels once again shows how out of touch he is. ‘A’ levels are so much more than just a passport to get a university place – what about those who take ‘A’ levels but don’t then go to university, for example? Any reform must involve schools and colleges (i.e. the people actually doing the teaching), and exam boards, who have years of experience in running the exams system. Universities might have a fairly minor consultative role, but that’s as far as it should go. And in practical terms, how would it work? There’s no standard chemistry university syllabus, for example, so how would we begin to dictate what should be in the ‘A’ level syllabus?

In 24 years of university teaching, I haven’t noticed much change in the overall knowledge of the students entering university. OK, there have been some changes in balance (more IT knowledge now, for example), but I don’t recognise the claim that ‘A-levels are not preparing students adequately for the rigours of undergraduate degree studies’. If this were the case, there might be cause for concern, but it certainly isn’t in my experience!

Hopefully this is just a ‘storm in a teacup’, and will be overtaken by more important events and issues. We will see!


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