New maths A-level to be delayed by a year
The introduction of new maths AS and A-levels will be delayed by a year until September 2017, the government says.
The move follows fears students would struggle to bridge the gap between the current GCSE and the new A-levels.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the delay would give students the benefit of having studied the new GCSE maths syllabus which starts next year.
The head teachers' union ASCL said the decision was logical but should have been made "in the first instance".
The union's deputy general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, said the new arrangement was far better and would allow pupils to progress to A-level based on their work for the new GCSE.
He said some schools had been worried they might have had to lay on "transition courses" as there was "such a significant difference in the breadth and depth of content at both GCSE and A-level".
Mr Gibb's decision follows advice from the exams regulator Ofqual and the A-level Content Advisory Board (Alcab), that the current GCSE and the new A-level would not line up in terms of content.
"You have advised that for mathematics the gap between the current GCSE and the new A-level is particularly significant," said Mr Gibb in a letter to the chief regulator Glenys Stacey, announcing the delay.
"Your concern is that the current GCSE does not have the same building blocks as the new GCSE to prepare students for the mathematical problem-solving content in the new A-level.
"I am content to accept your recommendation to defer first teaching of the new mathematics and further mathematics A/AS-levels until September 2017."
Ms Stacey said the change would help ensure a smooth transition to the new A-level.
"Students will have studied first the reformed GCSEs which will better prepare them for the updated A-level content," she said.
Ofqual says the additional year will also allow more time for schools to prepare for the new courses.
National Association of Head Teachers' general secretary Russell Hobby particularly welcomed this aspect of the deferment.
"It takes a long time for schools to prepare for a new exam properly. This includes changes to teaching programmes, resources and even staffing.
"Schools need plenty of time if they are to do right by pupils, so we welcome this delay. There are few more important subjects to get right," said Mr Hobby.
Alcab said it was very pleased the government had heeded its advice.
"This decision will mean that the first students taking the new A-level will have progressed from the new GCSE.
"The qualifications are designed to align in that way," said Alcab's chairman and vice-chancellor of Warwick University, Prof Nigel Thrift.
Prof Richard Craster of Imperial College, who chairs the board's mathematics panel, said the new A-level had "substantial changes in emphasis and content".
"At its heart are the aims of ensuring that students can embrace fluency, reasoning and mathematical problem-solving."
Mr Gibb said his decision aimed to give mathematics students "the best opportunity to benefit from the new qualifications at both GCSE and A-level".