Answers to Some Academic FAQs
We have for the present decided to continue to support A levels. We have carefully considered whether or not to move to the IB, but we have not been convinced that for at least 40% of our boys compulsory breadth of the very prescribed nature of IB (where all have to do Maths and a Science) is of benefit to them. We have also been closely involved in the development of CIE's new Cambridge Pre-U examinations; in 5 subjects Radley dons have helped write the specifications. We are attracted by the rigour of these exams, but will watch and wait during this first year of their teaching (they start in September 2008) and thereafter will make a decision as to whether we should embrace them.
Radley and AS levels
We remain unique in taking AS and A2 levels after two years in the 6th Form; AS levels are not taken in Y12, 6.1. This policy works very well indeed. We believe our A level results are perhaps 10% better than they would otherwise be, for our boys are more mature, taking AS levels (50% of whole A level) designed for 17 years at 18. We also have a normal 6.1 Summer Term, for sporting fixture and cultural events, and avoid the remorseless grind of Exams in each year, 5th Form, 6.1, 6.2. We gain 6 to 8 weeks of teaching across the two 6th Form years, and we can teach the modules into which AS and A2 are divided in the order which best suits us and is most logical. There are not, of course, re-takes to negotiate. We do not find that boys are overwhelmed by the number of Exams at the end of 6.2. We make a statement on the UCAS form telling Universities of our policy.
Radley and Learning Support
We are not a specialist Learning Difficulties School and we don’t have a separate Learning Difficulties or an English as a Foreign Language Unit. All our boys must pass C.E. by achieving 55% pass mark (and getting 55% in English and Maths). However, once they have passed into the school, we do all we can to support them; diagnostic tests, personal extra teaching, a close relationship between Learning Support team and Common Room members, has seen a large number of boys with learning difficulties achieve top grades at GCSE and A level. We require an Ed. Psych. report from Prep Schools to be sent to RWS.
Radley and Universities
There is much publicity about Government Further Education policies, OFFA, targets for universities to attract candidates from working class backgrounds. Universities have allegedly been given quotas, and failure to achieve them may bring on fines. But in practice what we have seen is that although it is very difficult for boys to get offers in English and History from Bristol, Durham and Edinburgh, our boys are all receiving offers from these Universites and Nottingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Exeter etc. in other subject areas. Oxford and Cambridge are more competitive, but that is because of very much larger numbers of applicants because of the increase in A grades since 2002. Here we find that highly motivated scholarly boys still get in, but that College choice is a very important factor.
Boys are placed into sets according to ability. There are separate sets for English, French, Maths, Science and Classics. There is considerable movement up and down in Maths and Science. The English set determines the Form, a pastoral unit, also used as the base for History/Geography/Art/DT/Music/RS teaching. Boys in the top 2 French sets do 2 extra foreign languages, Spanish and German abinitio. Boys in the other 4 sets choose Spanish or German. Special arrangements exist for boys who have already started Greek, and for those starting from scratch. The top Latin sets are introduced to Greek in Latin lessons across the year. Weaker boys do Classical Civilisation. All boys do IT, a tailor-made course to give boys the skills they need across the curriculum.
If Prep School and parents have doubts about whether a boy will achieve 55% CE average, and 55% in English and Maths, then they should contact the Warden’s Secretary or the Sub-Warden. Each year 10 or so boys come to Radley in late January and sit a pre-test in English and Maths. Based on that, and taking account of the time yet to elapse before CE, we will say whether we feel the boy will reach C.E. standard in June. We might say that he is a long way from the necessary standard at the moment; often parents want to take the chance anyway...