Fixed Exeats and A Level Reforms
The Recent Trial Fixed Exeat (27-28th September 2014)
I wanted to write to King’s families as a follow-up to the recent fixed exeat over the last weekend of September. This Forum aims to give some initial feedback and to encourage any parents or pupils who would still like to voice their views and be part of the consultation process to contact Liz Worthington (email@example.com).
I am keen not to forestall the process of consultation (we have just completed the student surveys), but I do judge it worthwhile to say that the vast majority of parental submissions so far have been positive, especially so as regards the particular timing of this trial one (the fourth weekend of what is seen by pupils and staff as a too long and hard slog of seven weeks up to the Half Term).
My only other conclusion at this stage would be to say that I would not wish for a fixed exeat during the Summer Term out of respect for those who prefer to study here in the run-up to the Public Examinations.
The post-2015 'A' level reforms
One of the legacies of Michael Gove’s tenure as Education Secretary will be the start of new 'A' level syllabuses next September, ones which are aiming to restore a ‘Gold Standard’ to the 'A' level programme and that hope to link school studies better with university courses. These moves confirm the 'demise' of AS levels as a half way stage to 'A2' qualifications through the reintroduction of a linear examination system (i.e. exams at the end of the two-year courses, as many of us parents experienced all those years ago).
Geoff Cocksworth, as Deputy Head on the Academic side, is completing a process of consultation with Housemasters, Housemistresses and Heads of Department, but will be writing at the time of the trial new subject taster Sixth Form lessons for our current Fifths in November to all parents about our more detailed plans. This HM’s Forum is to give the Headmaster’s overview on this important educational issue, one debated at length at the recent HMC Conference in Cardiff.
King's welcomes the move back to a more linear 'A' level system since it will give us more space to explore the subjects for their own sake across the passage of two vibrant Sixth Form years. It will also free-up valuable stretches of teaching time during the Summer Term of 6b. We also support any emphasis on 'depth' of learning at 'A' level as an important reassertion of excellence in teaching at King’s and at university level.
Breadth of academic provision is, however, equally important at King's and this is why we will want future 6bs to look to fill up five blocks on the timetables - with four ‘A’ level subjects (even if they later drop down to three in a focused pursuit of top university offers) and then the increasingly popular Extended Project Qualification (a research project which gives extra UCAS points and is well-regarded by leading universities) or a standalone AS subject (or ‘ab initio’ language) in the Fifth block. In this way, King’s will aim to combine the specialisation and selection of the new linear system, whilst preserving our traditional belief in academic breadth and open-mindedness.
One practical point for the first two years of the new arrangements is that for the 'building block' subjects (Maths and Modern Languages) AS exams will still run at the end of the 6b as a 'staging-post' towards the full 'A' level. Should the Labour Party form the next Government then we all might have to think again since Tristram Hunt has vowed to reintroduce AS levels (something Whitehall has clearly said would not be possible until 2017). Overall, then, the Gove reforms may seem a bit of a 'dog's dinner', but it is one that suits King's down to the ground!
Peter Roberts, Headmaster
Please e-mail Corrinne Finch, PA to the Headmaster's Office: firstname.lastname@example.org to follow up more points, or to ask questions.