Widespread curriculum reform is underway, with a view to raising standards in English schools. This reform affects includes the introduction of new GCSE and A level specifications over a three year period.

New A levels were introduced from September 2015 in English Literature and English Language, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, Business, History, Art and Design and Economics and in September 2016 French, Spanish , Geography, Dance, Drama, PE and Religion and Ethics. Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Design technology and ICT will follow in September 2017.

The curriculum reform includes significant changes to the range of subjects available, the breath and difficulty of study will typically have increased and assessment structure of both GCSEs and A levels will be less coursework orientated and more examination based. A levels will be fully linear, with students sitting their exams at the end of the two-year course, while  AS levels will be stand-alone qualifications and will no longer contribute to an A level grade.

As a consequence, and in line with the majority of sixth forms and colleges. Students will enrol on three A Levels and will not do not take AS in any subjects; they continue with all three subjects in the second year. The advantages of this approach are likely to include:
• Improved motivation: by choosing only three subjects to which they are wholly committed in Year 12, students avoid having to study a fourth subjects which they might not find as interesting.

• Maturity: students have two full years in which to develop the skills necessary for success at A Level and are likely to achieve better outcomes in the long term.

• Efficient and effective use of teaching time: school has been able to allocate more teaching time per week to a number of subjects; teaching time saved from the fourth subject may be reallocated to enhanced individual support for students and provide further enrichment and work experience opportunities.

• More effective use of the school year: by removing AS exams in Year 12, a fully linear approach increases the number of effective teaching weeks and removes the unhelpful interruption.

• Three high quality A Levels meet the entry requirements for the majority of higher education institutions.

New GCSEs in English language, English Literature and Maths will be taught in schools in England from September 2015. Further subjects will see new GCSEs introduced over the following year and with ICT and Design Technology coming on line from September 2017.
  • A new grading scale of 1-9, with 9 being the top grade. This will allow greater differentiation between students and will help distinguish the new GCSEs from previous versions.

  • Assessment will be mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills.

  • There will be new, more demanding content, which has been developed by government and the exam boards.

  • Courses will no longer be divided into different modules and students will take all their exams in one period at the end of their course.

  • Exams can only be split into ‘foundation tier’ and ‘higher tier’ if one exam paper does not give all students the opportunity to show their knowledge and abilities

Information about the new grading system is limited at this point. Ofqual and the awarding bodies have however, informed schools that a grade four will be equivalent to a grade C, a grade 5 is benchmarked against international standards and a grade seven will be equivalent to an A grade.