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A level reform – the key points

A level reform – the key points

National changes to the way A levels are structured and examined came into place in September 2015, starting with a first phase of subjects. The first results for the new AS levels will be in 2016, and for the new A levels in 2017. Further subjects will be introduced over the next two years.

The main features of the new A levels are:

  • Assessment will be mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills.
  • AS and A levels will be assessed at the end of the course. AS assessments will typically take place after one year’s study and A levels after two. The courses will no longer be divided into modules and there will be no external exams in January.
  • AS and A levels will be ‘decoupled’ – this means that AS results will no longer count towards an A level, in the way they do now.

Which subjects are changing when?

Below are details of which subjects are moving to the new pattern each year between 2015 and 2017.  We have only included the subjects which we teach here at Blackpool Sixth.

First teaching from September 2015 First teaching from September 2016 First teaching from September 2017
  • art and design
  • biology
  • business
  • chemistry
  • economics
  • English language
  • English literature
  • history
  • physics
  • psychology
  • sociology
  • drama and theatre
  • geography
  • modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish)
  • music
  • physical education
  • religious studies
  • classical civilisation
  • electronics
  • film studies
  • further mathematics
  • law
  • mathematics
  • media studies
  • music technology
  • statistics

How many subjects?

As a result of the changes outlined above, Blackpool Sixth has decided that students joining us in September 2016 for advanced level study will no longer be required to choose four courses.  Three A levels (or the equivalent involving BTEC courses) will be sufficient.   

The reasons for this are:

  • It will allow students to focus on the subjects required for their desired choice of university course or higher apprenticeship programme.
  • No universities or employers ask for four A levels or expect students to have done four AS levels in their first year.
  • Taking three courses will allow students more time to take full advantage of the huge range of opportunities we offer in our 6Xtra enrichment programme, our 6Advance gifted and talented programme and our growing range of high quality work experience options.  These additional elements will add more to students’ personal development and future prospects than they would gain from studying another A level.
  • Students on three course study programmes will also have more time available to take advantage of the outstanding support services offered by the college, including extra subject support and revision sessions, pastoral mentoring, study skills support and, where relevant, additional learning support.

What about a four subject study programme?

We recognise that some students may feel that they would like to take on four advanced level subjects in their first year of study.  This may be because they have a particularly wide range of academic interests and that by taking an extra A level or AS level, they will be able to keep open an additional option for their final year of study.  It may also be that they want to further their skills and knowledge to AS level in an area not covered by their other three choices.  As individual student choice is extremely important to us, we will consider such requests at enrolment and will advise students, based on their GCSE results and future plans, what is best in each individual case.  We would expect students to have a GCSE grade average of at least 7 points (grade A equivalent) for them to be eligible to take on four subjects.

Students taking a BTEC based programme or a mixed programme of A levels and BTECs will be still able to take a GCSE English or Maths resit as part of their programme.  Students on a wholly A level study programme will need to have passed both GCSE English and Maths at C grade to be accepted onto the programme.

What about the new AS qualifications?

As the new AS qualifications do not count towards the final A level grade, Blackpool Sixth has decided that from September 2016 students taking the reformed subjects will not take an AS qualification.

Please contact our Admissions Team on 01253 394911 or if you have any questions about subject choices and study programmes.