End A-level ‘monkey business’ – report

By Alex Stevenson

The A-level qualification risks becoming defunct despite its status in schools as a “means to an end”, a report by the Civitas thinktank claims.

Its research among senior A-level teachers suggests only a slim minority believe more able students or better teachers have explained the steady rise in grades.

Instead the ready availability of re-sits, teaching to the exam rather than the subject and modular methods of teaching are all cited as reasons why the consistency of the A-level grade has been called into question.

Anastasia de Waal, who wrote the report and is Civitas’ director of family and education, said: “That such a small proportion of teachers think they would have got the same overall A-level grades within today’s modular system as they did under the linear system strongly suggests that the A-level results of today are not comparable with those of the past.

“That the majority of teachers think they would have achieved higher grades today strongly suggests that it is easier to do well today.”

The report cites senior teachers who believe A-level standards have deteriorated over the years.

One director of A-levels in the north-west said: “The A-level is not aimed at the same people as it was 30 years ago: a larger cohort must have easier exams or too many would fail. You could train a monkey to do the questions today!”

Ms de Waal warns that while A-levels are now focused purely on grades for university, universities are now rejecting A-level results as reliable indicators.

She called for re-sits to be scrapped and for the “perverse interests of exam boards” to be ended.

“It should not be in the interests of those setting the syllabus to ensure that students achieve high grades in the exam,” she added.

“A-level exams for a variety of syllabuses should therefore be set by a single independent body.”