Richard Garner: A-level grading system that needs reform


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The Independent Online

For the past decade or so there has been endless debate about whether we should move to a system whereby A-level candidates apply to universities after receiving their results.

As the number of A* and A grade passes grows – we can expect more with the 2011 results that come out today – the argument grows stronger every year. Surely it makes sense, as Brian Lightman, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says, to give university admissions tutors access to the marks so they can see whether a candidate just scraped a top grade or achieved it with flying colours.

It would remove the temptation from teachers to bump up their pupils' grades and save a lot of wasted time with universities having to deal with candidates who have failed to meet the conditions of their provisional offer. Also, try explaining our present system to a Martian. What? Admissions to universities are determined by A-level grades but you offer the places before anyone has sat the exam?

Now is the time to grasp the nettle and start the necessary planning to introduce a new system – whether it be by bringing exams forward or delaying the start of the university year. The Government's White Paper on higher education has revived the debate. Now it has to be built upon.