Teacher Talk

'Last year we achieved a 97 per cent pass rate. I expect that we shall at least match that'
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Which are the popular A-levels today?

Despite trends to the contrary, all of our science courses are thriving. Physics numbers are increasing, chemistry is doing well, and applications for biological sciences are encouraging. We've introduced an AS level in electronics and have an applied science course alongside traditional courses.

Other new courses, such as graphics, photography and sport, reflect contemporary interests.

The college is in a deprived area. What effect does this have?

We represent the diversity of Manchester and we have a great many students who are entitled to maintenance allowances. We give young people a chance to be successful and to move on to higher education.

Last year we achieved a 97 per cent pass rate. I expect that we shall at least match that. This year we wrote 520 UCAS references, up from about 400 last year.

What's the future of A-levels?

Gradually they will evolve. Courses such as applied A-levels breed a parity of esteem between the academic and vocational elements - which is laudable. We are in favour of a modular approach.

We offer a number of vocational programmes that students can choose to study alongside A-levels. We've been pioneering foundation programmes on behalf of Manchester University. Students come in before their first year to brush up on areas in which they are weak. We've had about 80 undergraduates in subjects such as biology and engineering, with medicine and dentistry coming in 2006.

Are A-levels being dumbed down?

No. The skills that students need to get good grades are tough. Results here have improved for the past four or five years, and I put that down to the teaching. My staff, some of whom are examiners, say that many of the papers have become more demanding.

AS level is different but the demands at A2 are pretty high.

How do A-levels today compare with the exams you faced in your day?

Skills are better identified in the curriculum today. The content has changed to reflect contemporary themes, but even in subjects not offered to me, such as media, the talent required and skills involved are tremendous.

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