Gove attacked over A-level reform plans
03 April 2012
The Education Secretary Michael Gove's idea of giving universities control over the content of A-level courses (instead of exam boards) has been attacked by unions but welcomed by Ofqual, the exam regulator for England.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) was unhappy with the fact that Gove had discussed the issue directly with Ofqual and not with teachers while the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said that the move smacked of a "quick fix gimmick".
Gove's move follows comments from the exam board body Cambridge Assessment which reckoned that around 60 per cent of university lecturers said that students needed to do catch-up work before they were up to speed.
Gove wanted the Department for Education to step back from involvement in A-levels and Ofqual to take over.
"It is more important that universities are satisfied that A-levels enable young people to start their undergraduate degrees having gained the right knowledge and skills, than that ministers are able to influence content or methods of assessment," Gove said, adding: "I will expect the bar to be a high one: university ownership of the exams must be real and committed, not a tick-box exercise.
"I am particularly keen that universities should be able to determine subject content, and that they should endorse specifications, including details of how the subject should be assessed. Leading university academics tell me that A-levels do not prepare students well enough for the demands of an undergraduate degree."
Ofqual chief Glenys Stacey told the BBC: "Getting universities more involved is the right thing to do for young people. Our job is to make sure qualifications pass muster... we can do it better if you involve universities in the design of A-levels."
But the NUT's general secretary Christine Blower said: "Yet again we see top down initiatives being brought into schools regardless of what the teaching profession may think. The NUT is very disappointed that Michael Gove has approached Ofqual without consulting the profession as well."
And the ATL's Mary Bousted said: "Of course universities have a useful role to play in deciding what should be tested at A level, but A levels need to test more than just the ability to go to university."