Skip to main content

A-Level and AS Qualification

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 1 December 2016

In April this year, the Government announced that GCSEs and A-levels in a range of languages with smaller cohorts will continue and therefore will be reformed in line with other GCSEs and A-levels. This fulfils a commitment made in 2015 to work with the exam boards to ensure the continuation of these qualifications.

The reformed GCSE content for modern foreign languages, published in 2013, is suitable for all the modern languages currently available, and the exam boards are developing specifications for these GCSEs.

At A-level, we have worked with the exam boards to develop specific content for modern languages with smaller cohorts. The Government are today opening a consultation on this content, which will apply to A-levels (and AS) in Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Greek, Modern Hebrew, Japanese, Panjabi, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish and Urdu.

The content for modern languages with smaller cohorts is largely identical to the reformed A-level (and AS) content which applies to French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Italian and Russian. This was developed by the independent A-Level Content Advisory Board (ALCAB), appointed by the Russell Group to meet the expectations of higher education, and was published in 2015.

This content for modern languages with smaller cohorts addresses the risks associated with the assessment of smaller numbers of candidates, including the challenges of recruiting specialist examiners. The requirement to demonstrate speaking skills is not included in the proposed content, which is consistent with current AS and A-level qualifications in languages with smaller cohorts—with the single exception of Urdu (in which speaking skills are currently required). To secure a suitable level of rigour which is comparable for all modern languages, the Government propose a new requirement for modern languages with smaller cohorts. The proposed content would require students to apply language skills (reading, writing and listening) in combination, by responding to spoken and written sources addressing common subject matter.

The A-level (and AS) content for modern languages with smaller cohorts will apply to courses beginning in September 2018. The current specifications for these languages will remain available for courses beginning in September 2017.

I can also confirm today that A-level history of art and AS and A-level statistics will continue to be offered in England following the exam board AQA’s decision not to offer these qualifications for new courses starting from September 2017. We believe there is value in having a broad range of high-quality choices available to A-level students and our intention has always been that there should continue to be A-levels available in these two subjects. I am therefore pleased that the Pearson exam board has confirmed that it intends to develop new AS and A-levels in statistics and a new A-level in history of art for teaching from September 2017.