A Level Politics

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

In the General Election of 2015, the SNP won just under 1.5 million votes and won 56 seats. The Liberal Democrats obtained nearly 2.5 million seats and won eight seats. UKIP won close to 4 million votes and a single seat. Many hold this result up as a sign of the bankruptcy of the ‘old system’, one in which power would swing between two parties. Issue-based politics and the rise of nationalism mean that people are identifying with newer parties or not with any one party at all. At the same time, one in three eligible voters didn’t vote. What does this say about politics and the health of our democracy in Britain in the 21st century?

By studying Politics at A level, you will become equipped to address questions like these with the care that they deserve. Politics is an academically rigorous subject in which you will learn both political concepts and the structure of the British political system. You will look at a range of political ideologies and political issues that are of global concern. The course will leave you with a clear understanding of the importance of politics in a time when political apathy is on the rise.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will be studying two units. In Unit 1 (People and Politics), you will start by looking at democracy and participation. Can we enhance participation, perhaps by lowering the voting age? You will then look at political parties: their changing identities and role in our political system. The role of pressure groups will be discussed and finally, you will also look at the electoral systems used in the UK and how they work. In Unit 2 (Governing the UK), the focus is on the constitution, parliament, prime minister and cabinet, judges and civil liberties. You will consider such matters as the reform of the House of Lords, the role and powers of the prime minister and individual rights.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will be studying two more units. In Unit 3B (Introducing Political Ideologies), you will consider liberalism, conservatism, socialism and anarchism. Each presents a distinctive view or family of views on the nature of the individual, state and society and the relationship between them. Central to them all are questions of freedom, equality and justice and whether the state necessarily limits or enhances them. In Unit 4B (Other Ideological Traditions), you will consider nationalism, feminism, ecologism and multiculturalism. These ‘cross-cutting’ ideologies are new ways of looking at and interpreting the world that are complex and fascinating.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Whilst not a prerequisite, an A level in Politics is excellent preparation for pursuing the subject at degree level. It fits well with other humanities subjects, especially PPE, English, and Politics and International Relations. It develops your analytical and critical skills and will teach you how to write essays in which you explain and assess complex ideas through constructing clear and precise arguments. It will enhance your knowledge of the world around you and give you a deeper understanding of what it is to be a citizen.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You should have a strong interest in current affairs. The course involves a lot of reading and writing, so you should have good communication skills. All students are expected to read widely, including a daily newspaper as well as periodicals such as The Politics Review and the New Statesman.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams on Units 1 and 2 respectively. Each paper is worth 50% of the AS (25% of the A level) and lasts 1 hour 20 minutes.

A2 level

For the A2, there are two exams on Units 3 and 4 respectively. Each paper is worth 50% of the A2 (25% of the A level) and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes.

Reading

AS UK Government and Politics
By P. Fairclough et al
Published by Philip Allan, ISBN 978-1444183528

Essentials of UK Politics
By A. Heywood
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0230285620

Political Ideologies
By A. Heywood
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-0230367258

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: Pearson-Edexcel 8GP01, A2: Pearson-Edexcel 9GP01 (legacy)

 

John Cameron
Head of Department