The changes ahead in public examinations | Portsmouth High School

The changes ahead in public examinations

I do keep writing about the changes to public examinations starting in 2015 because I think it is important that parents are kept informed about the latest developments.

These changes may be tweaked with a change of government, but the core will stay the same. We are currently in the process of producing literature on our sixth form courses starting in 2015 and like all schools at the moment we do not know exactly the content of the new A levels. We will be sent teaching specifications in autumn 2014 for starting teaching in September 2015.

Possibly the most important change is that GCSE mathematics will have greater content and be arguably considerably harder. Mathematics teaching will continue into the sixth form and everyone will have to study either an A level in mathematics or for a certificate in core mathematics. So far higher education institutions have not said whether they will include this in their offers and this will be crucial to the uptake of the extra certificate in mathematics. There will be a greater mathematical element of many subjects such as psychology, geography and science.

In the new number system for GCSEs, grade 5 will be considered a “pass” and grade 9 will only be awarded to the

current top 50% of the A*. Those that sit either GCSE or A level examinations in the years 2017-9 will have a mixed bagof results. Some results will be based on the old system and some using the new, which will be confusing for universities and employers.

There will also be a National Reference Test taken every year by selected schools to benchmark the cohort. The message that schools are receiving at the moment is that AS levels will disappear eventually under the new system as most schools will choose not to offer them. However, at the Girls’ Day School Trust conference this week a representative from an examining board said that sixth form colleges he had met with had said that sixth form colleges would move to a three year sixth form programme.  The programme will consist of an AS level in the first year followed by a full A level over the next two years. This is unlikely to be something PHS would do, except in exceptional circumstances, and where this was specifically requested.

A return to a linear system with limited assessment outside of written examinations is the future of public examinations. At PHS we are constantly reviewing our offer to ensure we are best preparing our girls for examinations of the future.