Class of 2012 records biggest top grade drop in the history of A-Levels

 

The class of 2012 recorded the biggest drop in top grades in the history of A-levels today – and the first for 20 years – prompting claims from teachers that exam boards have succumbed to political pressure to reverse grade inflation.

Thousands of teenagers failed to snap up their university places today as a result of failing to achieve the grades demanded by universities – a result of the fall in top grades, universities said.

Exam boards are now bracing themselves for a flood of appeals against grades.

The results of the 335,000 candidates who sat the exams this summer showed that the percentage of A-grades awarded had dipped from 27 per cent to 26.6 per cent. The percentage of A* grade passes also fell from 8.2 per cent to 7.9 per cent.

The fall comes against a background of the Education Secretary Michael Gove warning of the dangers of grade inflation and “dumbing down” of exams. The exams regulator Ofqual has meanwhile indicated that grades and pass rates should be “roughly” the same as last year.

Teachers queried the fall. “Yet again it appears that outcomes are being manipulated to suit the Government’s agenda rather than the interests of students,” said Ian Toone, education officer of Voice - the “no strike” teachers’ union.

“The official explanation (for the drop in a grade passes) is that this year’s [students] cohort is weaker but this flies in the face of interference from the Government and...Ofqual - which have taken deliberate steps to curb so-called ‘grade inflation’ by introducing more rigorous rules which have effectively capped the proportion of higher grades that can be awarded.

“There is a risk that such interference by Government may cause people to lose confidence in the qualifications system as well as thwarting the life chances of many students who have worked hard in their attempts to achieve success.”

Academics had to look back two decades for the last time top grades dropped - and then it was only 0.1 percentage points to 11.0 per cent in 1991. Education experts said they could not recall a bigger drop in the 50-year history of awarding grades at A-level.

Exam boards were quick to insist yesterday they had not succumbed to any external pressure to avoid rises.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “We hope this year’s grades are a true reflection of how well students have done and that none of the results have been down-graded in an attempt to make A-levels look tougher.”

Exam boards said that this year’s cohort (year group) could have been weaker than previous years as a result of more teenagers staying on at school after 16 because of the lack of job prospects. In previous years, these young people would not have considered themselves candidates for A-levels, they suggested.

Figures showed the number of candidates taking A-levels had risen by 1.5 per cent.

“The economy two years ago wasn’t a lot different to what it is now,” said Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, the biggest exam board.

The overall pass rate rose again rose for the 30th year in succession - going up 0.2 percentage points to 98 per cent.

Ofqual has insisted that any student worth a top grade would still achieve it under its “comparative outcome” policy - whereby it says grades should be roughly similar to those in past years.

Exam boards added they had done “nothing different” this year in marking the papers.

Maths and the classics (Greek and Latin) were the two subjects with the biggest increases in take-up (7.6% and 7.5% respectively).

Figures also showed just over half the independent school entries had received an A or A* grade pass (%0.1 per cent) compared to 22 per cent from state schools and colleges.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he was “so encouraged that the number of students pursuing rigorous subjects such as maths and physics continues to rise”.

Stephen Twigg, Labour’s education spokesman, described the results as “impressive”, adding that they were due to “better teaching. better school leadership, Labour’s relentless focus on literacy and numeracy and record investment in schools”.

“While exams must remain robust and challenging, the Government must also ensure that this legacy is not undermined by reforms that are taking us in the wrong direction on standards.”

Mr Gove is reviewing A-levels and wants universities to play a bigger role in drawing up the syllabus plus a return to a concentration on the final exam at the end of two years study.

Boys edge out girls in winning top grade

Boys are outperforming girls for the first time in achieving the top grade at A-level – although still have some way to go to match girls’ overall success.

Eight per cent of boys were awarded A* grades, just ahead of girls, where 7.9 per cent got the top grade. At B-grade, 54.7 per cent of girls’ scripts awarded that or better, compared to 50.2 per cent of boys.

The subjects with the highest proportion of female were, in order, performing arts, Welsh and sociology, while those attracting the highest proportion of boys were computing, physics and other sciences.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate