Leading article: Congratulations, but reform is needed

Share

Most of the quarter of a million students who picked up their A-level results yesterday will have worked hard for their grades. And those who have done as well as, or perhaps better than, they expected deserve our congratulations. How unfair it is on such students that congratulations at this time of year are always drowned out by a debate in the media about whether standards have declined. It is no fault of the students that the exam system is in need of reform. They can only answer the questions in the papers that are put in front of them.

Yet the need for reform of the system is now undeniable. As a tool for educating the population, A-levels are failing. The UK continues to lag behind many EU countries when it comes to the numbers staying on in education or training after the age of 16. For all the talk of A-levels becoming easier, their narrow academic nature is still deterring too many from remaining in school or college any longer than they have to.

And as a mechanism for allowing universities to select the best candidates, A-levels are next to useless. Almost a quarter of UK A-level entries were awarded the top grade this year. Calls for the establishment of a new A star grade to distinguish the very top candidates is unlikely to solve the problem. Such are the inflationary pressures in the system that, if introduced, more students would eventually acquire these new top grades too, requiring the establishment of yet another "top" grade.

So while we congratulate those students who have this year performed well in their exams, we call, once again, for the scrapping of A-levels and GCSEs and the establishment of a diploma system as recommended by the 2004 Tomlinson report. Under such a system, examiners would be less susceptible to political pressure - implicit or otherwise - to deliver annual improvements in results. The countries that have a baccalaureate-style system appear less prone to hysteria over declining standards.

The vocational element of diplomas would also help to encourage more pupils to remain in education longer. Meanwhile, their more flexible grading system would enable more differentiation at the top end of the academic scale, making it easier for universities to select the best candidates.

It should be noted that some independent schools are already introducing the system off their own bat. And a baccalaureate system being piloted in Wales has shown some encouraging results. This Government has been a progressive force in many aspects of the education system, but in resisting this important reform it is lining up with the misguided traditionalists.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements