Schools and colleges need to better prepare A level students to become independent learners


Schools and colleges need to do more to support young people to become independent learners by developing skills that are key to success at A level, according to a report published today by Estyn. Inspectors found that a majority of students starting A levels lack the skills needed to be self-reliant learners such as undertaking research, making comprehensive notes and managing their time efficiently. Despite this, many learners do make rapid progress in developing strong independent learning skills during their studies, although a few remain too dependent on others for support.


In the report, ‘A levels in sixth forms and further education colleges’ Estyn evaluates the standards, quality of teaching and leadership of A levels in school sixth forms, and further education colleges. The report highlights how schools and colleges can better prepare students for A level, considers the curriculum and includes best practice case studies.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,

Learners need perseverance and motivation to do well in their A level studies. Successful A level teachers support and encourage students to develop their independent learning skills particularly well. They also show a passion for the subject, secure subject knowledge, and a thorough understanding of examination requirements. By developing these skills before they embark on A levels students will be better prepared and improve their chance of success.

The report notes that there are few opportunities for teachers in sixth forms and colleges to work together in networks to develop their professional practice, share resources and support A level teaching. One case study in the report describes how collaboration has been successful in one local area. Effective partnerships between schools and colleges in Conwy and Arfon areas have increased the range and choice of options available for learners in English and Welsh. By working together, the schools and colleges evaluate and review the success of courses offered, share best practice and change or stop underperforming courses.

The report identifies that there is still room to improve A level results and sets out a number of recommendations for key organisations. Schools and colleges can do more to improve the early advice and guidance given to learners about the range of qualifications on offer after the age of 16 to support learners to choose the course best suited to their interests and career ambitions. It also recommends that local authorities and regional consortia should work with sixth forms to help them evaluate the effectiveness of their A level delivery. 

Publication date

Thursday, 8 November, 2018