A-Levels? We Need Something Better; Heads Warn of Gruelling Battery of Extra Tests

Daily Mail (London), August 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

A-Levels? We Need Something Better; Heads Warn of Gruelling Battery of Extra Tests


Byline: SARAH HARRIS;LAURA CLARK

RECORD numbers of teenagers are taking optional tougher papers because the A-level has become so devalued, it emerged yesterday.

They are sitting Advanced Extension Awards - aimed at the top 10 per cent of students - on top of the traditional exam in an attempt to stand out.

The trend signals a vote of no confidence in A-levels as the pass rate moved ever closer to 100 per cent yesterday.

Heads warned that students are facing a gruelling 'battery' of extra tests, such as AEAs and university entrance papers.

They believe A-levels could eventually 'wither on the vine' as admissions tutors increasingly look beyond them.

From next year, institutions will even be encouraged to make conditional offers based on AEAs as well as A-levels.

The development came as yesterday's A-level results showed pass rates rising for the 23rd consecutive year to a new high of 96.2 per cent, up 0.2 per cent on last summer. A pass is grade E and above.

Colyton Grammar, in Devon, emerged as this year's top school in the Daily Mail's A-level league.

Its 90 sixth-formers passed 96.4 per cent of their exams at grades A or B, beating almost 600 top state schools in the table.

Across the country, the proportion of A to C grades - seen as the real benchmark for a good pass - rose by 0.9 per cent to 69.9.

A grades went up by 0.4 per cent to 22.8, leaving many teenagers with five or more top A-levels.

Pass rates at AS-level were up by 0.4 per cent, to 87.3. A grades also rose by 0.4 per cent, to 17.9.

Many sixth-formers now believe they must boost their A-levels with AEAs to get noticed by admissions tutors.

The optional papers - which are particularly favoured by independent school pupils - require problem-solving, critical thinking and evaluation.

They were introduced in 2002 and are available in many subjects including French, Spanish, history, English, maths, biology, religious education and physics. This summer, the number of AEA entries increased by 28.4 per cent - going up from 7,246 last year to 9,305.

From next year, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service will incorporate AEAs into its Alevel points tariff. Many universities make conditional offers to students based on their points score, often asking for 360 - the equivalent of three A grades. …

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