Is There Anyone Out There Who Doesn't Have 3 As?

August 16, 2007 11:32 AM


Hurrah! A's all round


BBC R5 are doing their annual phone-in on the A Level results. And the jock has just asked desperately if someone could phone who hasn't got three A grades- she's just talked to one girl who has five. A quarter of all grades are now A, and the overall pass rate has reached a staggering 96.9% (see this blog for a comparison with the pass rate in a traditional exam).

As we blogged here, it is now incontrovertible that A Levels have got easier- the best independent estimate is that over the last two decades on average they've got two whole grades easier (some, like Maths, have been devalued even more).

The evidence is now so compelling that even Jim Knight- the schools minister- sounded a little embarrassed this morning as he attempted to deny it.

Earlier in the week, the ever excellent Reform published a paper on the crisis in state schools by Dr Martin Stephen, the High Master of St Paul's School in London. It's well worth reading (see here).

On exam standards he highlights the deeply corrosive role of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority quango (QCA). It's worth quoting at length:

"QCA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Government. In effect this means that a branch of government decides the qualifications and the curriculum available to the majority of young people in England. It has a dangerous capacity to work the system in the best interests of government rather than in the best interests of employers or universities: the two interests can be very different."

You can say that again.

"The two interests can be very different...

[The QCA] is increasingly staffed by civil servants and career examiners, rather than by those with extensive experience of teaching or lecturing."


Eg its head, left leaning Aussie bureaucrat Dr Ken Boston (see this blog).


"The combination of QCA and the examination boards acts similarly as a block between consumer and end-user. The old examination boards (University of London, Oxford, Cambridge, Oxford and Cambridge), both by their name and by their employees, used to be far more linked to and with the university structure in the UK . One is hard pressed to find a university lecturer setting or marking secondary examinations, and universities seem to have little or no say in the content and difficulty of the qualifications that decide who comes to their institution."


Yet again, government intermediates itself between consumer and producer, imposes its own priorities, and ends up not meeting anyone's needs. Except its own.


As we've blogged many times, the only way of cutting through this nonsense is to put the spending power directly in the hands of the consumers. Just as it is in the independent sector where Dr Stephen and his colleagues are accountable to the paying parents, not to government.

Hurrah! A's all round


BBC R5 are doing their annual phone-in on the A Level results. And the jock has just asked desperately if someone could phone who hasn't got three A grades- she's just talked to one girl who has five. A quarter of all grades are now A, and the overall pass rate has reached a staggering 96.9% (see this blog for a comparison with the pass rate in a traditional exam).

As we blogged here, it is now incontrovertible that A Levels have got easier- the best independent estimate is that over the last two decades on average they've got two whole grades easier (some, like Maths, have been devalued even more).

The evidence is now so compelling that even Jim Knight- the schools minister- sounded a little embarrassed this morning as he attempted to deny it.

Earlier in the week, the ever excellent Reform published a paper on the crisis in state schools by Dr Martin Stephen, the High Master of St Paul's School in London. It's well worth reading (see here).

On exam standards he highlights the deeply corrosive role of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority quango (QCA). It's worth quoting at length:

"QCA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Government. In effect this means that a branch of government decides the qualifications and the curriculum available to the majority of young people in England. It has a dangerous capacity to work the system in the best interests of government rather than in the best interests of employers or universities: the two interests can be very different."

You can say that again.

"The two interests can be very different...

[The QCA] is increasingly staffed by civil servants and career examiners, rather than by those with extensive experience of teaching or lecturing."


Eg its head, left leaning Aussie bureaucrat Dr Ken Boston (see this blog).


"The combination of QCA and the examination boards acts similarly as a block between consumer and end-user. The old examination boards (University of London, Oxford, Cambridge, Oxford and Cambridge), both by their name and by their employees, used to be far more linked to and with the university structure in the UK . One is hard pressed to find a university lecturer setting or marking secondary examinations, and universities seem to have little or no say in the content and difficulty of the qualifications that decide who comes to their institution."


Yet again, government intermediates itself between consumer and producer, imposes its own priorities, and ends up not meeting anyone's needs. Except its own.


As we've blogged many times, the only way of cutting through this nonsense is to put the spending power directly in the hands of the consumers. Just as it is in the independent sector where Dr Stephen and his colleagues are accountable to the paying parents, not to government.

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