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Another record year for A-level students

Teenagers achieved record results in their A-levels again this year as the national pass rate soared above 97 per cent for the first time.

The proportion of pupils awarded A grades also rose again with more than one in four gaining the top marks.

But predictions that the number of A grades would hit 26 per cent were just wide of the mark. The number of exams awarded A was 25.9 per cent up from 25.3 per cent last year.

Figures from the exam boards show traditional subjects are still firm favourites with English and maths the top choices.

And pupils are once again taking greater interest in science with increased entries in all three areas - biology, chemistry and physics.

Chemistry was the favourite science - the eighth most popular choice of subjects amongst sixth-formers.

Jim Sinclair, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, which published the results today, said they were excellent and congratulated students on their achievements.

He said: "The results show not only an improvement in the grades achieved but also an increased entry to mathematics, sciences and languages, which are positive and encouraging developments all round.

"This has to be a day for celebration."

Schools minister Jim Knight also dismissed any suggestion that another set of record results showed that A-levels were being dumbed down.

Fears that languages would see a slump in popularity proved unfounded as the numbers taking French and Spanish rose. But there was a decrease in German.

Overall 97.2 per cent of candidates taking A-levels this summer achieved A to E passes, up from 96.9 per cent last year.

Girls continued to score better grades than boys although boys are continuing to close the gap at grade A.

Professor Alan Smithers from the University of Buckingham said the increase in popularity in science was not unexpected.

He said: "There has been a big attempt to reverse the decline in science, and we may begin to see the fruits of that this year."

Teachers have appealed for students to be allowed to enjoy their day of success without the inevitable complaints about the exams being "too easy".