Conservatives will, no doubt, welcome the government’s announcement about A-levels today. Modules will be abolished. We will return to one tough exam at the end of the two years of study. Life will go back to the golden era of the 1970s when the top people got As and Bs and everybody else got a random selection of C-F because they struggled to understand the questions.
It is true that the old system had some merits. It was especially good for selecting the brilliant from the very good. However, in its latter days, for the vast majority of people taking A-levels, the system did not work. The current modular system has many advantages. At the very least, modular exams ensure that those who do not reach the basic competences in the first year of study go back and learn it all again – exactly as would happen in professional exams.
And this is the point. We need variety in our examinations systems. Instead of having one exam structure, dictated by a Secretary of State, we need different kinds of exams that are appropriate for different types of student. We should welcome the fact that sixth-form students can do the IBacc, A-levels, AS-levels, pre-U and that some students have to do separate university entrance exams too. In addition, vocationally-minded students can take a range of other courses.