Media Response to Chair’s Address

22nd May 2012

Media coverage of John Wood’s conference address focused on his comments around exam boards and Universities.

BBC News reported : “Giving academics too much influence over A-levels could turn them into university entrance exams. The chairman of the Independent Schools Association warned that schools may feel forced to choose A-level courses because of links between exam boards and universities. ”

The Times on-line reported: ” Ministers are giving universities too much influence over A levels…John Wood, chairman of The Independent Schools Association, will warn the Government about its plans to allow universities to dictate the content of A-levels.”

The TES said : ” Warning over A-levels as university entrance exams : John Wood, chair of the Independent Schools Association believes that the move could give universities too much influence over A-levels.

The story was also carried by The Press Association and several local newspapers.

The full text of the ISA Press Release is copied here:


A senior independent schools leader is calling on the Government to re-think plans to allow universities to set A-level content.

John Wood, Chair of the Independent Schools Association, believes that the move could give universities too much influence over A-levels, and effectively turn the qualification into a university entrance exam.

Speaking at the ISA’s Annual Conference in Harrogate today (17 May), Mr Wood will use his opening address to urge the Government to re-consider asking universities to drive the system of exam syllabuses.

He will also call upon the Secretary of State to ensure he takes heed of the views expressed by teachers in the independent sector.

“It is absolutely right that syllabus development and the oversight of A-levels should not be the preserve of the exam boards alone. But we must ensure that universities are not given too much influence over the actual content of exams.

“As competition for university places increases, there is a real risk that schools will feel forced to select certain exam boards, based on their links to HE institutions.

“There is also a danger that A-levels will become so narrow that students won’t possess the independent learning skills that successful undergraduates need.”

Mr Wood will highlight concerns that current A-level syllabuses are too tightly focused, and do not inspire students to develop enthusiasm for their subject.

“The current system, including the provision of textbooks targeted directly at examinations, does not encourage or reward students who read widely around the subject. Giving universities greater input could potentially make this worse.

“I would like to see a partnership between universities, those in schools and colleges and also employers’ representatives, who would work with the Awarding Bodies to ensure that A-levels provide the best possible preparation for young people’s future study or employment.

“So much has gone wrong with the system over the past few years, at both GCSE and A-Level. I certainly do not feel confident that the Exam Boards can rectify the situation alone. Ofqual are already beginning to do a good job in this area, and I hope that they will continue to engage with us in the independent sector, to listen to our views and to work with us as changes are proposed.

” We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right, and in the independent sector we have a huge amount of expertise and talent to assist in the transformation that is needed.”