New figures show that the number of schools offering the Pre-U – a course devised by Cambridge University’s exam board – has increased by a third in two years. For the first time in 2012, it was revealed that almost as many state schools opted for the qualification as those in the fee-paying sector.
The course is seen as a return to traditional A-level study before it was divided into four “bite-sized” modules, which students can repeatedly resit to inflate their marks. As part of the Pre-U, pupils take exams at the end of the two-year “linear” course, with a focus on broader, essay-based questions.
Last night, teachers claimed that the qualification stretched bright pupils further and acted as a better preparation for university. It comes just days after the head of Britain’s biggest exam board called for a major overhaul of A-levels – including curbs on the number of exam resits and the introduction of more challenging syllabuses – to allay concerns that courses were becoming “too predictable”.
But critics claim that it remains a minority qualification and is unsuitable for most pupils. Two years ago, Gary Lineker, the former England football captain, said that Charterhouse treated his son as a “guinea pig” by ditching A-levels in favour of the Pre-U after he failed to win a university place.
But Val Joyce, head of English at Watford Grammar School for Girls, among dozens of state schools now teaching the Pre-U, said she had been “thrilled with the results”. “The course allows students to develop the breadth and depth of the subject, beyond what is needed for the exam criteria, therefore giving them the freedom to allow for personal investigation which broadens their knowledge and prepares them for university,” she said.
Cambridge International Examinations said the number of schools offering the Pre-U had grown year-on-year. In most cases, they teach it in a small number of specific subjects. Some 138 are offering it in at least one subject this year, including 64 state schools and 74 independents. It represents an eight per cent rise in a year and 36 per cent increase in the last two years. The most popular subjects offered by schools are English literature, French, history, mathematics and global perspectives.
According to examiners, evidence suggests pupils taking the Pre-U are more likely to secure university places, with 80 per cent of those who applied last with one of the qualifications last year getting in, compared with seven-in-10 nationally. Ann Puntis, chief executive of CIE, said: “When it first started, Cambridge Pre-U was seen by some as the preserve of the elite. These statistics prove this is simply not the case – it is growing in popularity for schools across the board. “With increased focus on the outcomes of a university degree and the employability of young people, we have an obligation as educators to ensure that those who chose higher education are sufficiently prepared to get the most out of it.”
Thanks to the Telegraph online for this one.