Only 29% of English schools who responded to a UCAS survey are teaching AS level qualifications in all subjects, now that the AS no longer counts towards the final A level mark, according to findings published today.
Posted Fri 24 March 2017 - 09:47

This number has fallen from 59% of schools who responded to a similar survey in December 2015.

Responses to the survey on attitudes to qualification reform, made by around 300 schools and colleges, also revealed that the proportion of schools no longer offering the AS at all has increased to 36% (from 21% last year).  Independent schools are more likely to have removed AS qualifications from their provision – 43% have moved to a linear A level curriculum, compared to 30% of academies.

In the previous school survey by UCAS in November 2015, 74% of respondents said they would continue offering stand-alone AS qualifications in some or all subjects. That has reduced to 59% in the current survey.

Furthermore, 43% of schools responding to the survey plan to review their curriculum and qualifications offer for next year, suggesting that the 2017/18 academic year could be the first in which AS qualifications are no longer offered by the majority of schools.

A small majority of respondents (56%) have changed their provision since the 2015/16 academic year, with some schools commenting on the difficulty in teaching both A level and AS satisfactorily. Many said they had reduced the number of A level qualifications a student may study from four to three.

Questions were also asked about the new, numerically graded GCSEs. Answers reveal that schools and colleges are setting different minimum grades in English and maths for students progressing to post-16 qualifications, with 37% of respondents asking for a grade 4 (a mark which matches the bottom of the previous grade C), 41% for a grade 5, and 12% for a grade 6.

Mary Curnock Cook, UCAS Chief Executive, said: 'The picture which emerges from this survey shows that more schools and colleges are taking the opportunity to review their provision to focus on a programme of three linear A levels – although a majority still plan to offer AS qualifications in at least some subjects.

'Given the growing diversity of the curriculum in both the state and independent sectors it is important that schools and colleges make clear to universities what qualifications and subjects students have had access to during their secondary education.'

View the results of the survey


Notes to editors

Between 2015 and 2017, all AS level subjects have been ‘decoupled’ from the A level in England to make them standalone qualifications.

This means that it will not be until September 2018 that young people from England will be making university applications holding a full set of reformed A levels. Meanwhile, A levels from Northern Ireland and Wales remain in the 'stepping stone' AS/A2 format.

UCAS first surveyed over 2,400 English schools and colleges in November 2014 and received almost 400 responses. A second survey, which ran in November 2015 and received 305 responses, aimed to discover if the curriculum landscape had changed in the first academic year where reformed AS levels were taught.

This third survey was conducted between November 2016 and January 2017 and received 286 responses. This time round, UCAS broadened the scope of its previous AS and A level survey to encapsulate a wider range of provision, such as GCSEs and vocational qualifications, in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how schools and colleges in England are responding to the wide ranging reforms.

UCAS has made the following recommendations in response to changes around qualification provision:

  • Students should be advised that it is essential, given the variety of universities’ responses to qualification change, to check the entry requirements for different courses on a course provider by course provider basis.
  • Schools should be aware that changes in provision make the UCAS reference an increasingly important component of the student's application. We recommend schools create a web page detailing their qualification provision and the rationale behind it, explain how they make grade predictions and include a link to this URL in the reference.
  • Universities and colleges should review their practices to ensure they are responding appropriately to qualification changes. Entry requirements should be clear, with legacy, current, and future qualifications referenced, and requirements for AS, science practical grade, and GCSEs stated. Vocational qualifications deemed suitable for entry should also be stated, and whether they are acceptable standalone or in combination with other qualifications.

About UCAS 

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a charity and the UK’s shared admissions service for higher education. We manage applications from around 700,000 applicants each year for full-time undergraduate courses at around 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

UCAS publishes millions of data points on throughout the year that can be freely used to investigate many topics in admissions for higher education.

For more information, please contact or call the External Relations Team on 01242 545469.

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