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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Early Years Teachers ...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Qualified Early Years Teachers Required

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualifed Early Years ...

Do you want to work in Education?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energetic gradu...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride