Conscious Uncouplings

It’s not often that you can start the week’s assembly with the confident assertion that the girls will witness history in the making, one way or another, by the end of the week.

Two separations are playing loudly in the High School. Watching Scotland reconfigure its future is gripping all of us. You may well be relieved to hear that in this pocket of Hertfordshire at least, the result of our entirely informal Scottish independence referendum in the rigorous ballot of a quick moment at the end of assembly, was a resounding, if approximate, 600 votes No, to 2 votes Yes.

The second uncoupling changes the educational landscape, if not the political. With rather more dignity than Gwyneth and Chris, the two parts of the A Level, united since Curriculum 2000, are to separate, leaving the AS an independent ‘stand alone’ qualification and moving the two A Level years back to a linear system with all exams taken at the end of the course. But as we know uncoupling can be a messy business. The government insist that half the subjects begin new specifications from September 2015 and the other half not until September 2016. Consequently, every school in the country has to consider how they will manage their interim year. Here at the High School we have decided to go fully linear across all A Level subjects from September 2015.

The A Level qualification released from the shackles of a tired, overly modular relationship presents the exciting proposition of a re-claimed exam-free Year 12. It will make room for real scholarship, for adventurous thinking and for fun. As parents we have kept the memories of our Lower Sixth year like guilty secrets. That crucial year of intellectual awakening offers the benefits of a buffer year between GCSEs and A Levels and room for girls to build the depth of learning and confidence to tackle their final A Level exams and university learning with impressive intellectual maturity. Of course we are in the privileged position of knowing that if we have high expectations of High School students, they will deliver!

Let’s hope, whatever our affiliations, the same can be said of all of those decision makers in Scotland on Thursday.

Interesting times!


Jenny Brown, Headmistress, St Albans High School for Girls

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