Headteachers oppose plan for elite A-level grade

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The Independent Online

Plans for an "elite" A-level grade to recognise the country's most gifted pupils have been attacked by Britain's leading independent schools.

Plans for an "elite" A-level grade to recognise the country's most gifted pupils have been attacked by Britain's leading independent schools.

Ministers hope to introduce an "A grade with distinction" at A-level to help universities to identify the brightest students. Schools would decide which pupils to enter for the more difficult exam papers that could qualify them for the higher grade.

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents the heads of boys public schools – including Eton, Harrow and Winchester – is urging the Government to abandon the plan.

The move would put further pressure on schools to focus on exams rather than giving pupils a broader education, the union said in its response to the Government's Green Paper on reorganising education for 14 to 19-year-olds. The HMC added that it would "debase the A grade at A-level and enshrine grade education".

The opposition has surprised some educationists who had expected the HMC to back plans that would enable universities to choose the brighter pupils out of a high percentage who obtain A grades.

But Geoff Lucas, the HMC's secretary, said: "If universities are demanding three A-levels with distinction for some subjects, it is going to put real pressure on pupils to go for that, and will go against those who opt for a fourth subject at AS-level to broaden their horizons."

He said HMC schools were not against helping universities to differentiate between pupils "at the top" but felt the A-level with distinction was "the wrong way to go about it". The union also said the measures would threaten "breadth and balance" of the curriculum.

The Government will draw up the final proposals for its shake-up of secondary schooling in the summer.

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