Our Response to Covid-19 & A-Level Reform

Current Year 13 students now applying through UCAS for 2021 entry were offered the following programme at the beginning of Year 12 in September 2019:

  • Three A-levels (as two-year courses; all taught by subject specialists)
  • Plus an additional option of one of the following:

                - A fourth A-level (for students with a high GCSE APS; taught by subject specialists)
                - The Extended Project (started in September 2019 and finishing in July 2020 for a November 2020 entry; taught through a lecture programme and timetabled sessions with non-specialist supervisors)
                - Core Maths as a two-year course (taught by subject specialists)
                - GCSE retakes (if relevant) in English and Mathematics (timetabled and taught by subject specialists for a November 2019 entry initially).

Unfortunately due to the national lockdown in March 2020 face-to-face lessons were stopped. We continued to teach all courses through remote learning, prioritising Year 12 classes for ‘live’ lessons via Google Meet (at least one lesson per subject every week being delivered in this way). Summer mock exams were done remotely and students were able to come in for three hours contact time per subject at the very end of the term. This academic year we have so far managed to deliver a full face-to-face programme of lessons although unfortunately due to our use of year ‘bubbles’ and staggered start times, we have had to move tutoring to a blended approach (i.e. Google Classrooms supported by 1:1 appointments if/when required). We aim to undertake a mock week in January as usual.

We have chosen not to offer standalone AS-level entry for students undertaking reformed linear A-levels. There are two exceptions to this general rule:

  1. If a student is discontinuing the subject after one year (please note in this case students were in a minority in their class and whilst the ‘co-teachable’ nature of the AS and A-level should have allowed for students to have covered appropriate AS content, many may not have had much experience of AS exam practice and feedback)
  2. If teachers have concerns about the student’s ability to pass the full A-level (the external AS result has then been used as a further piece of evidence to assess whether or not a student should continue with the subject into Year 13). Note we have used the October 2020 retake series for this purpose this year.

Our decision to offer reformed A-levels as a two-year linear course (without an external AS entry) was based on our belief that students should be working at full A-level standard from the very beginning of the course and that AS would be an unnecessary distraction (especially as AS papers have different assessment weightings and structures to the full A-level papers).

In order to arise at a predicted grade for students undertaking a reformed A-level, internal summer mock exams were set, based on full A-level specimen papers (not AS papers). These grades along with other elements such as internal assessments throughout the year and a student’s Alps grade have enabled us to be confident in our predictions.

Predicted grades for the Extended Project Qualification are based on internally moderated marks which will be subject to external moderation in November 2020.

For any further questions on our approach to A-level reform or response o Covd-19 restrictions, please contact Mr J A Saunders (Assistant Headteacher/Head of Sixth Form) via e-mail: saundersj@bishopluffa.org.uk