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Politics A Level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

You do not have to be an expert in politics to enjoy and succeed with this course as we take you through each stage of the specification developing your knowledge. We start by discussing what democracy means and assessing whether it could be improved and reformed. You will learn many new concepts as you progress such as the meaning of direct democracy, liberal democracy, power and participation and whether voting really counts! 

From this introduction you will move to analysing political parties’ ideals and policies and why parties differ from each other in their approaches. You will also study the election systems used in the UK and find out why there are debates about reforming the election system for Parliament. As the number of voters is falling over time you will look at alternative forms of political activity such as pressure groups, direct action and discuss whether there is a participation crisis in Britain.

Once you have completed the first unit of study regarding participation in democracy you will be introduced to how government operates in Britain and how well it performs. This involves debates about the ‘presidential’ approach taken by Prime Ministers and an analysis of whether Parliament performs its functions adequately. We then turn our attention to the role of the courts and how well judges uphold civil liberties and discuss the nature of the UK Constitution.

A2 – The Politics of the USA 
This involves you studying the American political system and involves an in-depth analysis of the American Constitution, the role of the powerful Supreme Court, Presidential politics and whether Congress is the ‘broken branch’ of American government. There is a real emphasis on the cultural aspects of American Politics and one discrete area of study is ethnic politics in the USA and how different groups have shaped and continue to shape US political debate. 

Course content

AS - Unit 1 People & Politics (exam)

You will study:

  • Electoral systems – an assessment of which systems are the most representative of voters’ choice.
  • Key political concepts – All the basic tools to help analyse politics: direct and representative democracy, liberal democracy, referendums and other forms of political activity.
  • Pressure Groups – which groups are more powerful and why, methods used by different groups to achieve their aims.
  • Political Parties – The key principles and ideologies of the main parties and how these translate into their policies.

Unit 2 Governing the UK (exam)

You will study:

  • The UK Constitution – The nature of the UK Constitution and an analysis of whether it functions in the contemporary era.
  • The Prime Minister and Cabinet – The power of the Prime Minister is a key topic as is discussion of whether Cabinet Government still operates in the UK.
  • The role of Parliament – A much criticised institution at times, you will assess whether Parliament performs its function well or is in need of reform.
  • Judges and Civil Liberties – A very topical issue. Judges are expected to uphold civil liberties, but in doing so the judges are increasingly coming into conflict with members of the government over their decisions.

A2 - American Government & Politics (units 3 & 4)

If you choose to continue to A2 Politics, and most students do, you will soon become familiar with the nature of the American approach to politics which at times, differs quite a lot from our own system. You will understand the key role of the Constitution and how a powerful Supreme Court can make constitutional judgements that can divide the nation in opinion. Additionally, you will be invited to assess the power of the President and whether the position is as really powerful as some believe.

The Americans have almost constant election cycles which can change the political landscape every two years. You will become familiar with the impact of these elections on the political system and also assess alternatives to voting such as pressure groups and grassroots democracy as seen with the Tea Party in recent years.

Entry requirements

The basic requirement is five GCSEs at grade C with a grade B Higher GCSE for English Language and any essay based GCSE subject.

Assessment

Your achievement in this subject is dependent upon excellent attendance, punctuality and effort. You will learn in a friendly and discursive atmosphere, using a variety of assessment methods:

  • You will be assessed regularly on written work that is conducted either as homework or under timed conditions in class and given feedback on your progress.
  • You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your tutor.
  • You will undertake mock examinations on each unit in advance of your final exams.
  • You will be formally examined on each unit that you study. The examinations are traditional and involve both essay-based and short answer questions. There are two exams (one for each unit) at the end of the AS year and the end of the A2 year. There is no coursework component.

Future opportunities

A qualification in Politics is highly valued by many universities and employers alike. The subject is also an excellent complement to many courses, such as History, Sociology, Law, Philosophy and English. 

Further information

We encourage all students to read widely and conduct their own research into political life. It is essential that students are up to date and familiar with political events as recent examples are valued by examiners. You do not have to have previous knowledge of politics, but must be prepared to update your understanding and knowledge once on the course.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Truro and Penwith College directly.

Last updated date: 15 June 2016

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