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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 May 2015

Tories rig exams to favour rich students

Tom Price, Stroud school student

I have been out campaigning for TUSC, the 100% anti-austerity electoral alliance, at my school. I recently wrote a letter to Mr Neil Carmichael, Stroud's Conservative MP, about my concerns surrounding A-level reform - but was fed an unsatisfactory automated response. A supporter of TUSC inspired me to write to the Socialist.

A-levels have been 'modular' - split into units with an exam after each - since 2000. From September 2015 A-levels in some subjects are due to become 'linear', with one set of exams at the end of the course.

Former education secretary Michael Gove claimed this will allow "deep thought". I think this is illusory. Even if true, it will be outweighed by the human costs of the policy.

The Department for Education claimed AS-levels - threatened qualifications equivalent to half an A-level - were unreliable in predicting higher education success. This babble was contradicted by researchers from the London School of Economics, who said: "Scrapping AS-levels meant that one in five students would be deprived of showing their academic improvement during their first year in sixth form." This means many students capable of getting into 'top' universities would not be given the chance.

Merits

The current AS-level regime has its relative merits. It gives students freedom to specialise in their preferred subjects in Year 13. This promotes enjoyment of education, rather than being constricted to your choices at the beginning of Year 12 and having zero flexibility afterwards.

AS-levels provide universities with information to make correct choices for admission. If applying for universities more emphasis will be put on the personal statement, part of the application where students write about their life experiences.

The personal statement is a worse predictor for future performance. And think tank the Sutton Trust found that - unsurprisingly - personal statements give students from privileged backgrounds an advantage. This will deepen the problem of fair access to higher education in Britain.

AS-levels give students a huge confidence boost to aim higher. Taking this away will hurt the chances of students from non-traditional and poorer backgrounds who may not receive encouragement to aspire.

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In The Socialist 20 May 2015:


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Build a movement to defeat the government's savagery

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Fight Tories' new 'anti-extremism' law

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Election aftermath: anti-Tory austerity protests

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Build up resources to fight the Tories

Management thrashed in academies debate

Campaign news in brief


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Russell Brand's 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

Save our 'life saver' libraries!

Tories rig exams to favour rich students


 

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