The loss of a range of A level subjects to our Schools as recently reported in several newspapers is a matter that will clearly be of great concern to students who are considering their options for what to study from next September. Their parents too will have questions and some may be disappointed and so too a number of teachers and other educationalists. However these decisions should surely be a matter that is considered more widely than the current cohort of students or the teachers who may lose their jobs. Some of the courses are apparently quite similar to other subjects and so the exam boards are dropping them due to duplication, which seems a reasonable argument. Others are subjects which are recognised as being important, but which are difficult to test in an exam based way. However some of these subjects seem to point towards a major gap in the way in which future generations will look at the world of work and how they will engage with society. As someone who studied electronic engineering at Brighton Polytechnic, despite having no A levels (and only one O level) my personal experience is not the best to compare with. However the Company which I help to run is dependent on attracting future employees with an understanding and interest in electronics and engineering more generally. Both of these subjects are no longer available at A level which seems a retrograde step. The same is true of the ICT A level. Perhaps more importantly no one has ever consulted with us as a business regarding our needs and requirements.
Beyond the issue of engineering and our particular industry is another subject whose demise is just as concerning. I wrote about the loss of Home economics: Food, nutrition and health a year ago and here thanks to comments I had read by Sally Connor. She spotted this comment from OFQUAL
“Food technology has been removed as an endorsed route within design and technology, as feedback from higher education practitioners and subject experts indicated that it did not fit comfortably within this subject. We have decided not to develop a separate food A level, as we have done at GCSE. There is already a number of high-quality vocational qualifications available post-16 in food-related subjects, including those with a focus on food nutrition. For those students wanting to progress to a career in food, there are career-specific vocational qualifications, for example in confectionery/butchery. For students wishing to progress to a degree in food nutrition or food science, top universities offering food science/nutrition related courses have told us they are looking for students with science qualifications for entry to their courses, rather than food-related A levels.”
Its clearly a valid point of view, and yet there is nothing to stop someone passionate about food technology from studying another science alongside Home economics at A Level. The fact is that in our nation where obesity is considered a major challenge, anything that can be done to enhance our understanding of food is surely vital, and the better qualified the next generation of teachers of these subjects, the better for all of us. Martha Collinson from Bake Off last year was clear in her view that the loss of this subject was not a good decision. In the case of both areas of work, it seems disturbing that the examination boards have taken decisions which should be considered more widely. At one time that would have been something politicians would have participated in and ensured other voices were heard. Perhaps our current cohort are too focused on other things to pay attention to these problems! Let us hope that is something that is rectified very quickly.