The Importance of the Lower Sixth

My son is entering his final year at school, and yet his A Level grades – for mastering content that hasn’t even been taught to him yet – have already been predicted. On the back of these predictions, he may or may not get offers from the universities of this choice.

This is a huge burden for teachers to take on: over-predict and your students’ hopes may end up being dashed, under-predict and deserved opportunities will be missed.

What if, now that we’ve done away with AS Levels and given students back their Lower Sixth, your child captains a team or stars in a play? It’s possible they will as a result perform slightly less well in their internal exams, which could mean a disappointing grade prediction. Ideally the academic pressure should be lessened sufficiently for them to discover who they are outside the classroom without risking their place at a good university. Only it isn’t.

According to Laura McInerny’s article in The Guardian: “Historians will laugh at us when they look back at our university application system”, only one in six students achieve their grade predictions. It is, indeed, a broken system when you consider the frantic post-exam clearing process in which no less than 100,000 students got involved this year.

McInerny argues that it would be much more sensible – and fairer – for university applications to take place after exam results have been published, and for first year students to begin their courses in January.

Until then, though, in spite of there being no more national exams in Year 12, internal exams matter very much. Until a fairer system comes into being, we need to help our children approach sixth form with the same rigour as they would have done if there were AS’s to take in the summer. Right now, predicted grades are vital to your child’s future, so academic issues need to be addressed straightaway.