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Concern over Gove A-level proposals
Headteachers and universities have voiced concerns about Michael Gove's plans to hand control of A-levels to higher education.
The Education Secretary has announced that he intends to give universities, particularly the most elite institutions, "a far greater role" in designing A-levels in the future amid concerns that the qualifications are failing to prepare teenagers for degree study.
In a letter to the exams regulator, Ofqual, Mr Gove said he did not envisage the Government playing a part in developing A-levels in the future.
Responding to the announcement, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned that preparing students for university is just one aspect of A-levels.
He said: "The number of 18-year-olds taking A-levels has increased sharply and many use them as a springboard for apprenticeships, employment-based training or entering the workforce.
"It may be that university departments need to look at other ways of assessing applicants which don't rely as heavily on A-level grades. That is what employers do.
"I fear that some of Mr Gove's concerns are based on an unrealistic expectation of what an examination can accomplish. Academic achievement is not synonymous with employability skills, and a good education must provide both. I have doubts over whether universities are better placed than awarding bodies to undertake the highly complex task of setting examinations for many thousands of 18-year-olds, or indeed would wish to do so."
Peter B Hamilton, headmaster of the private Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School and chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference academic policy committee, said: "A-levels are and will remain the most important examination for young people completing their pre-university education.
"Michael Gove is right to want university input into the much-needed review of A-levels but it would be most unwise to give universities total control. Those who teach 16 and 17-year-olds know best what they need, both to expand their knowledge base and develop their study skills, so input from successful sixth-form teachers will be equally important in getting an examination system fit for the 21st century."
In his letter to Glenys Stacey, chair of Ofqual, Mr Gove said that exam boards should be able to work with universities to develop qualifications. In return for greater freedom to design exams, boards will have to provide evidence of which universities have been involved in decisions such as subject matter and style.