Putting the A back in A-levels

August 14, 2008 4:55 PM

It’s that time of year again: the building up of nerves, the shrinking of fingernails and then finally, today, the A-level results were out.  Students across the UK have, yet again, managed to surpass previous records of A-grade achievements with 25.9% of candidates achieving the top mark.  The BBC reports that the number of A-level entries also increased to a record 827,737.


But on the back of the celebrations looms the reality of the result for the education system.  Whilst the rise in the number of entries is a positive development, the expansion of the ‘A club’ is not.  As with any commodity, the value of the A diminishes as its supply increases.  That’s why universities aren’t jumping quite as high off the ground about results as the jubilant teenagers; the task of distinguishing between students’ capabilities has become ever more difficult.   


Education is crucial.  The quality of education a child receives at school should not be compromised.  But it is; the government’s drive to show that ‘targets’ are being met has side-lined the potential for real reform.  As long as examination regulators are accountable to the government and not parents, superficial targets will be met at the expense of genuine improvement.  Examination bodies need to be made independent so that they can focus on providing more rigorous and challenging exams.  Parents deserve a system whereby the money they pay for their children’s education is converted into credible, meaningful results.

It’s that time of year again: the building up of nerves, the shrinking of fingernails and then finally, today, the A-level results were out.  Students across the UK have, yet again, managed to surpass previous records of A-grade achievements with 25.9% of candidates achieving the top mark.  The BBC reports that the number of A-level entries also increased to a record 827,737.


But on the back of the celebrations looms the reality of the result for the education system.  Whilst the rise in the number of entries is a positive development, the expansion of the ‘A club’ is not.  As with any commodity, the value of the A diminishes as its supply increases.  That’s why universities aren’t jumping quite as high off the ground about results as the jubilant teenagers; the task of distinguishing between students’ capabilities has become ever more difficult.   


Education is crucial.  The quality of education a child receives at school should not be compromised.  But it is; the government’s drive to show that ‘targets’ are being met has side-lined the potential for real reform.  As long as examination regulators are accountable to the government and not parents, superficial targets will be met at the expense of genuine improvement.  Examination bodies need to be made independent so that they can focus on providing more rigorous and challenging exams.  Parents deserve a system whereby the money they pay for their children’s education is converted into credible, meaningful results.

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