A levels in sixth forms and further education colleges


This report is in response to a request for advice in the Cabinet Secretary’s annual remit letter to Estyn for 2017-2018. It reports on standards, provision and leadership of GCE Advanced Levels (A levels) in school sixth forms and further education colleges. It considers a range of factors, such as standards at A level and how these are measured, the quality of teaching and assessment, the nature of the A level curriculum offer and strategic leadership, including partnership working.
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Schools and colleges should:

  • R1 Improve A level outcomes, particularly at AS level and especially those of boys
  • R2 Improve the advice and guidance given to learners by:
    • a. considering carefully learners’ levels of educational attainment at GCSE when giving advice and guidance
    • b. providing learners with accurate and up-to-date information about the full range of sixth form, further education and apprenticeship opportunities open to them
    • c. giving advice on the best combinations of subjects for them
    • d. developing a clear policy on progression from AS to A level
    • e. considering carefully the number of qualifications taken by each learner, taking into consideration the likely progression route of each learner
  • R3 Improve the independent learning skills of pre-16 learners in order to prepare them for A level studies
  • R4 Work together to improve professional learning opportunities linked to A level teaching
  • R5 Give due attention to outcomes and provision at A and AS level in self-evaluation and improvement planning processes
  • Local authorities and regional consortia should:
  • R6 Facilitate networks of professional learning related to A level across schools and colleges
  • R7 Help schools to evaluate the effectiveness of their A level provision

The Welsh Government should:

  • R8 Monitor the success of the new consistent measures data sets across schools and colleges
  • R9 Ensure that changes to the curriculum and qualifications secure continuity and progression
  • R10 Review the funding formula for A levels in schools and colleges, and its application across authorities, with the aim of eliminating unintended consequences, such as encouraging learners who are not best suited to study A levels to do so
  • R11 Develop a way to communicate to learners and their parents clear information about A level attainment and provision in individual centres