Anorak News | A-Level Playing Field

A-Level Playing Field

by | 17th, August 2005

‘LONG gone is the sense of impending doom as the A-level student hears the letterbox rattle and sees there, lying on the doormat, the letter containing their exam results.

‘It’s a ‘D’…I passed!’

Since 97 per cent of everyone who took an A–level this year is expected to pass, students may get a more enlightening read from the back of their box of breakfast cereal.

But why has this happened? The front-page of the Telegraph is given over to trying to answer it.

The paper’s readers learn that pass marks are on the up because spending on teaching has risen by 50 per cent in real terms since 1997, the year Tony Blair became our leader.

The paper say that Lord Adonis, the schools minister, will look at this year’s results and say how the rise in investment has led to better teaching and higher standards.

It’s not the students who are getting smarter, it’s the system that is getting better at finding ways to deal with them and preparing them to take the “gold standard” exam.

Problem is that, as the paper points out, if everyone is passing – and the 3 per cent who don’t may soon be classified as non-persons – how can employers and university admissions staff differentiate between applicants?

For this reason, the paper gives us the headline “A-level exam is in ‘terminal decline’. And that’s the opinion of none other than Geoff Lucas, general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference which represents 243 independent schools.

He says the A-level “no longer prepares them [students] properly in key subjects because it has become such a mechanical exam”. It “does not test what really maters”. It “allows candidates to retake modules until they achieve the desired result”.

And the desired result is for them to pass the test with flying colours and so give the Government a visible return on its investment and teachers a warm glow of job well done.

But though Mr Lucas says the A-level pass rate is “creeping inexorably up to 100 per cent”, the likes of Lord Adonis must be concerned that the final three per cent might be thick heads to crack.

So what to do? To invest more and so improve those results-driven teaching standards? Perhaps? But we prefer another way – keep the failures – the “success deferred students” – locked in the school system until they do pass.

Given enough time, we’re told a chimpanzee can produce a work of Shakespearean quality, so a decent pass mark in an art history A-level should be within the reach of all.

The students might be in their eighties when they do pass, but when they do they will have hit the target and that, after all, is the important thing…’

Posted: 17th, August 2005 | In: Uncategorized Comment | TrackBack | Permalink