Results day

New A* grade for 1 in 12 A-levels

A desperate scramble for university places was under way tonight, as sixth-formers across the country celebrated another record-breaking year of A-level results.

About one in 12 exam entries (69,302 in total) were awarded one of the new A* grades, according to figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications.



This exceeded predictions, based on last year's results, that around 7% would get the top grade.



Overall, the pass rate rose for the 28th year in a row - with more than one in four entries (27%) gaining at least an A grade.



But despite the bumper year, students are still facing a battle to win a university place.



Figures published by the university admissions service, UCAS, show that more than 185,000 students so far are eligible for clearing this year.



Last summer, 47,600 students accepted places through clearing, and the numbers are expected to be lower this year.



Clearing - the process which matches students with vacant university places - opened this morning, but it is expected to be short. Around 18,000 courses have places available.



More than 660,000 people applied to university by the end of June, and it is predicted that between 170,000 and 200,000, including sixth-formers and older learners, could miss out this autumn as universities face multimillion-pound cuts and pressure on places.



Universities which entered clearing began to fill up fast as soon as the results were published.



Thames Valley University said it had more than 1,200 calls to its clearing lines within two hours. Some 46 offers had already been made by 10am.



Kingston University said more than 40,000 attempts had been made to call its clearing and confirmation hotline by 1pm.



And Essex University said some of its most popular courses were already full.



Today's A-level results reveal that private school pupils were three times more likely to score the top mark than state school pupils, while overall girls achieved more A*s than boys.



Andrew Hall, chief executive of the AQA examining board, said candidates from comprehensive schools, which are responsible for 43% of A-level entries, gained 30% of the A* grades awarded.



Students from fee-paying schools, which are responsible for 14% of entries, also took 30% of the A* grades awarded.



Girls got more A* grades overall than boys (8.3% compared with 7.9%), but boys got more A* grades in science and maths-based subjects.



The results led to a dispute over whether the exams have got tougher this year.



To score an A*, a student needed to achieve an A overall, plus at least 90% in each of their papers in the second year of their course.



Mr Hall insisted that the new way of assessing students was not designed to make A-levels harder.



"There is a myth to slay here: the A-level was not meant to get harder," he said.



But John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the exams had got tougher.



"The questions were harder, the way in which the questions were framed. Over the last 10 years, people who have done A-levels, the A2 questions would take them through A, B, C, D, E," he said.



"It would sort of take you through the answer, whereas now the question just comes at you, and you've got to do the analysis, it's required a different way of teaching."



Dr Dunford added that this year's A-level group were the best qualified ever, and it was "deeply frustrating" that many will miss out on university.



The sentiment was echoed by Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS).



He said: "More applicants with the grades and aspiration to go to university than ever are being forced to scrabble for an even more limited number of clearing places, or forced to withdraw from the process entirely.



"They are being encouraged by ministers to reapply next year but can be offered no assurance in return that there will be a resolution to the annual places crisis."



Professor Les Ebdon, chairman of university think tank million+, said: "It will be a tragic waste of talent if we see thousands of applicants left without a place in 2010."



Paul Callanan, of the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign group, said: "It is disgraceful that, at a time of rising youth unemployment, the Government is cutting university spending and condemning thousands of young people to the dole queue."



Shadow business secretary Pat McFadden said: "The coalition talks about social mobility yet one of its first acts was to cut 10,000 student places for the coming year compared to Labour's plans."



Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The drought in university places is a tragedy for many youngsters and is a standing rebuke to the coalition Government."



TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Thousands of students with good A-levels have learnt that they do not have a college place and no easy alternative of work amid entrenched youth unemployment.



"Whatever its intentions, the introduction of the A* grade will do even more to favour the conveyor belt from private education to top universities."



Universities Minister David Willetts said: "For those who have sadly not done as well as they hoped, there are places available in clearing."



Today's results showed that 97.6% of entries were awarded at least an E, a rise from 97.5% in 2009.



More than 300,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are receiving results today, the first year that sweeping changes to A-levels have come into effect.



As well as the new A* grade, students sat four modules instead of six, and answered "stretch and challenge" questions designed to allow them to fully demonstrate their knowledge.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of Jane Austen classic - with a twist

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

LSA

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: To work as part of the Le...

KS1 Float Teacher needed in the Vale

£100 - £110 per day + Travel scheme plus free professional trainnig: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

KS2 Float Teacher required in Caerphilly

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week