It was no surprise yesterday that the class of 2005 notched up a record A-level pass rate and obtained the highest number of A grade passes ever recorded. After all, so did the class of 2004, 2003 " and classes all the way back to 1982.
The big surprise was the leap in the number of youngsters taking Advanced Extension Award papers, which were up 28 per cent this year to 9,305. It is all the more surprising when you consider that both state and private school headteachers do not believe the exam is the answer to the vexed question of how universities select the most talented youngsters.
The tests are not available in every subject, so they unfairly discriminate against some students if used by universities to determine admissions, they argue.
The Government is trying to rectify the problem by inserting the kind of questions asked by an Advanced Extension Award paper into new half- hour papers for every subject. This will be piloted next year.
The trouble is, it is taking an awfully long time to get these papers off the ground and the problem (of selecting the best students for the most popular courses) is getting worse every year. As a result, individual universities are devising their own tests. Oxford and Cambridge have them for several subjects " such as law and medicine.