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Royal Society calls for Baccalaureate

Sixth form education needs a major overhaul to properly prepare pupils for the future, a leading academic has said

Pupils are being put at a disadvantage by A levels, because it is a narrow system that is no longer “fit for purpose”, according to Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society.

Britain is at risk of falling behind other nations by holding onto the qualifications, which encourage teenagers to specialise in a small number of subjects, he has warned.

The Nobel Prize-winning biologist called for a major shake-up to allow sixth-formers to study a wide range of academic and vocational subjects.


Fewer A levels taken

In a speech, Sir Venki said that research commissioned by the Royal Society has shown that students are taking fewer A levels, with the average number of A-level qualifications per student now standing at 2.7.

He said: “Students are also taking a narrower mix of subjects, with, for example, more students taking exclusively Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, without any learning in other subject areas seen as key for a broader and more flexible skill set.”

Sir Venki added that “this concentration of Stem learning is seeing the size of the pool of young people with good scientific thinking and skills shrink; less young people overall are studying a science at A level.”

“The UK risks falling behind its global competitors as a result of maintaining a narrow, outdated model of post-16 education.”

He added “Our narrow education system, which encourages early specialisation, is no longer fit for purpose in an increasingly interdisciplinary world. Many countries have moved, or are moving, towards a broader and more diverse curriculum in order to equip the next generation with a skill set they will need.”


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