Blunkett saves English history from oblivion

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A-LEVEL Anglo-Saxon history has been saved after the intervention of David Blunkett, the Education Secretary.

But schools may have to pay for their students to be examined on the history of England from the year 300.

Mr Blunkett ordered an inquiry after it was revealed that two out of three exam boards were dropping the period from their A-level syllabuses. Last month they said that their syllabuses would start in 1042 rather than 300 because of a lack of demand from schools.

The OCR pointed out that, of 11,000 candidates studying for the board's history A-levels, only 303 chose to study the years 300 to 1500 and, of these, only three answered questions on Anglo-Saxon history.

But Mr Blunkett asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to investigate the decision after Robin Nonhebel, a teacher at a London independent school, protested.

Yesterday the OCR exam board said that it had changed its mind after further consultation with schools and universities, who recently complained that most first-year students had studied only Hitler and Stalin at school.

The OCR will be the only board next year to offer history from the year 300, though Edexcel is proposing a syllabus that will start in 800.

Ron McClone, OCR's head of policy, said the board might have to charge more for the Anglo-Saxon A-level but hoped that it would prove economically viable.

"It will be expensive but the commitment to the Saxon period is so strong among its supporters that we now believe we can find a way of financing it." He said that OCR had not been aware of the position of the other boards when it took the decision to drop the syllabus. n The first GCSE results of the summer, published today, suggest that pass rates have risen again.

GCSE results for England and Wales are not out until next week but in Northern Ireland the proportion of top grades has risen for the third consecutive year.

More than one in five pupils there received a grade A, and the proportion of those awarded the top A* grade went up from 4.4 to 5.3 per cent.

The percentage receiving grades A* to C also rose from 67.9 to 69.9.

Northern Ireland's results usually serve as a guide to results in England and Wales. Critics have queried the annual rise in the proportion of top grades awarded, but the increases have slowed in the past three years.

Last year, the proportion receiving the top four grades in England and Wales rose by just 0.3 percentage points.