Various News headlines are today reporting a record number of A  Levels entries have been awarded A grades.  This year over a quarter (26.7%) of A Level entries have been awarded an A grade.  This is an increase on just over 25% least year and represents a new record.

One of the implications for the increasing pass rate and increasing number of top grades being awarded is the pressure on University places with demand this year outstripping supply. 

Today’s news reports also inevitably discuss the issue of dumbing down.   Today’s Daily Mail reports calls from the chief of the OCR exam board to make A Levels harder.  The Times  joins in with the debate and considers the possibility of ranking A Levels with percentages.  The Independent also reports on calls to “crank up the standard”, observing that Universities struggle to distinguish between candidates when so many achieve the top grades.  However A level grades should never be the only criteria by which Universities select their students

The overall theme is that the increased pass rate and increased number of A grades awarded is evidence of ‘dumbing down’ or falling educational standards.  Rather than take increased grades being taken as prima facie evidence of increased standards, this evidence is rejected.  The opposite must be true.   Chiefs of the examining boards contest the idea that A Levels are being dummed down. 

Some Facts to consider…

  • Over 60% of applicants have had their University places confirmed so far
  • The Government has made an extra 10, 000 places available to cope with the anticipated extra demand for University places this year (brought on by a number of factors, including demographic changes and recession)
  • This year competition for University places is greater than in previous years
  • This year there will be a record number of people studying at University as participation continues to widen
  • 40% of students receive a full grant to support them during their time at University
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