Qualifying for success - how to make it a certainty

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




Blackstone, B. (2000), "Qualifying for success - how to make it a certainty", Education + Training, Vol. 42 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/et.2000.00442aab.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Qualifying for success - how to make it a certainty

Qualifying for success - how to make it a certainty

In a departure from the norm we begin the UK news section with a short article on post-16 reforms from the Minister of State for Education and Employment.

Baroness Blackstone

Keywords: Qualifications, Government, Education

Most European countries offer young people in the 16-19 age group broader programmes of study with much more demanding timetables than in the UK. The "Qualifying for success" reforms we will introduce in September 2000 will encourage young people to study more subjects over two years than has been the norm, while also helping those who wish to combine academic and vocational study. At the same time, we are providing new world class tests to stretch the most able students and give a clearer indication of their abilities. There will also be new key skills tests in communication, application of number and information technology.

We are introducing:

  • new "A" levels, set at the same standard as the current ones and, as at present, offering candidates the choice of either modular (staged) or end-of-course assessment. In both types, understanding of the whole syllabus will be tested;

  • a new advanced subsidiary (AS) qualification representing the first half of the full "A" level and worth 50 per cent of the marks;

  • New world class tests - "Advanced extension awards" - aimed at stretching the most able students and designed to attract more entries than the existing special papers;

  • New GNVQs at advanced level, equivalent in size and demand to a single "A" level and graded on a similar A-E scale, with AS-equivalent GNVQs also available in some subjects; and

  • a new key skills qualification to encourage all young people to develop the essential skills of communication, application of number and IT.

The bottom line is this: the Government has no doubt that there is scope for young people to broaden their studies with no loss of depth or rigour and we want them to take on more demanding programmes at the age of 16.

What will all this mean for a 16-year old this year? We are not seeking to apply hard and fast rules to the post-16 curriculum. There is no right or wrong way in which to implement the reforms. They are designed to enable young people to pursue, and institutions to offer, programmes of study that best suit their own needs and circumstances. For example, they might start with four subjects in the first year, continue with three of them in the second year to "A" level and complete the fourth as an AS in its own right after the first year. The additional time available in the second year might be filled by another AS in a new subject. Alternatively, they might decide in the first year to do five subjects, reducing to three for the final "A" levels. All this would result in the achievement of three "A" levels and two AS levels over two years.

If they were particularly able in a particular subject, they might do an extra "A" level paper with the new advanced extension exam. At the same time, the student would be able to complete the key skills qualification by using material built up as part of his or her main programme of study as evidence of achievement in the three different key skills. We believe these key skills: communication, application of number, and information technology, are vital "can dos" that all employers will need and demand in the future.

Young people, of course, will decide how they want to study. We want to ensure that they, their parents, tutors and employers are fully aware of the changes ahead. With this in mind, we are discussing with employers, universities, and other groups how best to create an environment where it becomes the "norm" for the great majority of young people to take on broader and more demanding programmes of study. The reforms have already been welcomed by institutions such as the CBI. The new world class tests are backed by Cambridge University and are likely to supersede their own STEP papers.

These reforms are very important. Designed to build on the strengths of the existing system, they will be our young people's passport to success in the new millennium, and will certainly be the launchpad for them to meet the exciting demands of the new decade and beyond.

The Qualifying for Success Helpline - 0171 509 5556 - is open from 09.00 to 17.00 Monday to Friday. An operator will be available to answer any questions on the reforms.

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