The NAHT has written to the secretary of state because of the complicated position surrounding 'AS' levels and the fact that the 'AS' Level only becomes a qualification if and when a candidate accepts an 'AS' certificate or, to use a more common phraseology, 'cashes in' units in order to gain the qualification. Students can decide to cash in, to cash in and retake in order to achieve better results, or decline to cash in.
The complexity of the position regarding 'AS' Levels is best illustrated by the following quotation from a document provided by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service:
'Once sufficient units have been completed to constitute a qualification.candidates will be provided with a qualification result and an opportunity to decline certification at that point Candidates who have accepted an AS certificate can still resit AS units and the better result counts towards the full Advanced GCE, but in such circumstances candidates will not be issued with a new AS certificate. They can, however, resit all the AS assessment units, in which case a new AS certificate will be issued based only on their resits because the earlier AS assessment units are 'used up' for AS purposes by the act of the original AS certification.'
7 August 2001
The Rt Hon Estelle Morris MP
Secretary of State
Department for Education & Skills
Great Smith Street
LONDON SW1P 3BT
I am writing in advance of next week's publication of the AS level results because of the distinct danger that an inadequate and distorted picture will be presented. Our concerns can be summarised as follows:-
1. The main complication with AS levels is that they only become a qualification (and publishable as such) if and when a candidate accepts an AS Certificate, ie. 'cashes in' the three AS unit results in any subject. The rules, as we understand it, stipulate that if the 3 units are cashed in for an AS qualification, the only way that the AS result can be improved further is by the student re-taking all 3 units. On the other hand, if a student decides not to accept the Certificate, and does not cash in, they can retake 1, 2 or 3 units in order to improve their AS results.
2. The only apparent benefit in cashing in is to enable the student to show the AS level qualification on the UCAS form in their application to Higher Education. Since it is perfectly possible for a candidate to state that their 'results are being held over' as part of their personal statement in the UCAS form, the balance of argument is against cashing in until this becomes necessary.
3. Of equal concern is that, when it comes to publication of the results, the cashing in process was complicated further at the examination entry stage when the question was asked on the entry forms whether AS results would be cashed in
We believe that many institutions responded in the affirmative on behalf of their students believing that this was no more than a general indication of a likelihood that some students would cash in some results. The fact that 75% of institutions responded in this manner tells us nothing about what individual students will actually decide to do when they know their results.
4. Accordingly, the reality is that the results to be published on 16 August, can only embrace those students who have taken 3 AS units in those centres (the 75%) which answered in the affirmative regarding cashing in at the examination entry stage.
5. This means that 25% of the centres will not be included and, in relation to the 75% that are included, many students may well decide not to cash in their results. This will lead to an inadequate and distorted picture which will be remarkably unhelpful to the new examination.
I can appreciate your Department's dilemma. The fullest possible publication of AS level results on the 16th will avoid charges of 'cover up' or 'lack of transparency'. But it is essential that next week's publication is accompanied by a very definite 'health warning'. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that all students receive their individual results in all the AS units they have taken so they can make informed decisions about cashing in and/or re-taking units.
In view of the importance of this issue, I am copying this letter to Edexcel and to the Joint Council for General Qualifications.
ccStephen Timms MP
Joint Council for General Qualifications