In the 2018 University English meeting, Billy Clark and Andrea Macrae discussed academics’ perceptions and awareness of A-level English reform. The survey, funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme, was conducted by the ‘Integrating English‘ dream team: Andrea, Billy, and Marcello Giovanelli. You can find a visualisation of their findings here.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, English subject leaders feel that they and their teaching staff are little informed about changes to A-levels. In fact, the overwhelming majority of English degrees in the UK are making no (55%) or minor (33%) changes changes to the curriculum to support the transition of students who are taking the reformed A-Levels.
On a more positive note, the Lang/Lit A-level is more positively viewed in Higher Education than in schools. 95% of university English subject leaders perceive it as useful in preparing students for English degree programmes. In fact, this is tallies with our own anecdotal evidence. A couple of days ago, at a local college visit, the Lang/Lit teacher was telling how the English Literature A-Level still carries much more prestige and is more popular with staff and pupils than the Lang/Lit A-Level.
And finally, a third of English degrees do not require any of the three English A-Levels (English Language, English Literature and English Lang/Lit). It looks like we are not that unique at Middlesex!
So what can we do in higher education to help the transition of our students from secondary to tertiary education?
Billy explained the importance of connecting with secondary teachers and students, awarding bodies, even our PGCE colleagues. He also showed the importance of helping first-year undergraduate students understand how university work differs from school-level work.
Jenny Stevens (Teacher of English and freelance writer and editor) presenting the post-16 perspective on English teaching and learning suggested that HE sector can help by:
- Getting involved in GCSE & A Level qualification;
- Communicating with A-level student, parents and teachers via university website (podcasts/screencasts);
- Cross sector collaborations on social media (e.g. linking with Centre for English & Media);
- Joining the English Association Secondary Education Committee.