Petchey Academy head: Teachers and pupils struggled with lack of materials provided for Gove’s new A-levels

A file image of former education secretary Michael Gove. Picture: Steve Parsons

A file image of former education secretary Michael Gove. Picture: Steve Parsons - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Both students and subject teachers have struggled with the lack of materials provided by A-level exam boards for the new syllabus, according to teachers in Hackney.

The Petchey Academy. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

The Petchey Academy. Picture: Emma Bartholomew - Credit: Emma Bartholomew

Jo Rainey, vice principal of the Petchey Academy in Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, also believes this year’s cohort was not sufficiently prepared for the “quite profound” leap in academic rigour to the new A-level syllabus, because the old style GCSEs failed to provide an adequate grounding in the subjects.

While Year 13 pupils this year are sitting the “first wave” of the A-level subjects that have so far been overhauled to make them harder, it will not be until next summer that the first set of GCSE pupils sit the new more taxing syllabus.

GCSE marks will change from A* to E to numbered grades 1 to 9 – with 9 being the equivalent of an A**, which does not currently exist. English and maths alone will use the new grades for their results next week, but the exams themselves will not change until next year.

While the jump previously was was quite big from GCSE to A-level, the jump with the new specification is even greater according to Ms Rainey – and has “kind of worked backwards”,

She said: “We do know from looking at exam papers and speaking to students that they did find it much more demanding compared to previous cohorts.

“The way the questions were worded made it more demanding, but also the amount of content that needs to be covered is about 25pc more than the old A-level.

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“I would say it’s more like what would be classified as the gold standard A-level from the early ’90s and perhaps even before.”

She added: “Both students and subject teachers did struggle with the lack of material provided by the exam boards – not just the lack of material around assessment, but also around the grade boundaries.

“The teachers were working from draft specifications in order to design their schemes of learning in the autumn before the exam season started.

“But the academic rigour attached to those systems is significantly more difficult than the old legacy A-level specifications.

“Students needed a lot more support in decoding the questions and needed to do a lot more peripheral reading around their subjects in order to give that range and depth to their answers which perhaps wasn’t expected as much from the other specifications.”