SIR – I was delighted to read your Comment item the day after A-level exam results congratulating students on their achievements.

At Worcester Sixth Form College we share your analysis that pass rates have been rising because of good teaching and committed students.

We also share your fears about the impact if the Government continues with its plans to replace the current modular system with the old ‘do or die’ exams taken only at the end of two years of A-level study.

Not only would this change put huge pressure on our young people, in some cases harming their performance, it would also remove a key advantage of the current system whereby students can take four or five subjects in their first year of the sixth form before deciding which subjects to specialise in for their second year. Removing this ability to try subjects out would almost certainly lead to some students playing it safe and no longer choosing to study subjects that are perceived as difficult, yet are so vital to our economy, such as mathematics, sciences and modern languages.

At Worcester Sixth Form College, we have had strong growth in recent years in the number of students taking mathematics and science subjects and our numbers taking languages, where nationally there has been a decline in entries, have remained stable.

Yet we fear what the impact of a return to the old exam system would be, since, in a recent survey of our A-level students, more than 10 per cent reported that the existing modular system had made them more likely to study a language and almost a quarter reported that it had made them more likely to study a maths or science subject.

Last weekend, I was reading in the newspapers that the “highest levels” of Government are alarmed about the “crisis in language learning” as fewer students progress on to language degrees and that the Department for Education has a programme coordinating attempts to increase the uptake of language degrees.

I hope that the Government will wake up to the contradiction between its policies before it is too late and will abandon its retrograde attempts to abolish modular A-levels.


Principal, Worcester Sixth Form College