Removal of AS Exams Next Year

The Balcarras Senior Leadership Team, and the Sixth Form Team, have been considering the future of AS examinations for some time.  


As many of you will know we have always believed in preserving AS-levels and we honestly believe it is one of the reasons why we have achieved record breaking results in recent years.  However, thinking about preparing the school for the next academic year, and adjusting the school’s provision to accommodate the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, has led us to re-think our provision in this area.  


One of the problems of preparing for the coming year is that we will have to live with uncertainty for some time. There are many crucial questions which we cannot answer with any degree of certainty at this time: Will there be a second wave? Will Cheltenham suffer a local lockdown? Will a proliferation of local lockdowns elsewhere mean further adjustments to the exam arrangements that Ofqual put in place in the autumn?  All of these questions cast considerable doubt over whether the delivery of AS-level courses, to the standards on which we pride ourselves, and within the necessary time frame for students in Year 12 to approach external AS-level examinations in May and June 2021, are feasible or fair.  A change to our A-level curriculum offer would help reduce pressure on students and staff in what is already going to be a challenging year.  It would alleviate the academic stress and time constraints that formal examinations in May would impose, and help ensure that the Year 12 cohort are able to focus on returning to school, have further security should they face additional disruption in the autumn or winter, and enjoy their return to a full programme of education.   


Given all this uncertainty, we will not enter our students for formal AS examinations in the summer of 2021.  The Year 12 students enrolled this September will continue to follow 4  A-level courses and sit a Balcarras A-level trial examination at the end of Year 12.  In Year 13 students will have the choice to continue to study 4 A-Level subjects or discontinue the subject least relevant to their post-18 plans and continue with 3 A-levels.  


This approach keeps the breadth of our curriculum model but removes the pressure of having to get the cohort ready for externally marked examinations in May. We wanted to make this announcement before the start of the courses in September. It is a change to what was advertised in our prospectus which was of course published before the pandemic.   


Dominic Burke/Darren Leatherbarrow