Letter: Consistency in record results

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The Independent Online
Sir: Why should we believe that a record pass rate in this year's A- level means standards are declining? When people say they do not feel the recession is over, the Government points to statistics to show that it is. When, however, statistics show examination performance is rising, the Government says that people feel that standards are declining.

Even the survey of employers' views is irrelevant here, since by definition this year's A-level cohort has not yet been employed. Two years ago, this same cohort had record-breaking levels of GCSE achievement. Normally one would regard consistency between two sets of examinations by different examiners two years apart as proof that the first set of results was not a fluke. Why not in this case?

Is it perhaps related to the fact that this cohort of pupils is one of the last to be relatively unaffected by the changes resulting from the so-called Education Reform Act of 1988? The Government has based its case for extra testing on the view that standards are declining. If independent evidence suggests that view is mistaken, the Government's case collapses.

As a parent, school governor and university teacher, I have seen with my own eyes achievements in our schools and universities unimaginable by those of the same age 25 years ago. The standards of our examination boards are so respected that they are widely used overseas, thereby contributing to our export earnings.

To knock our children's achievements, as some public figures have done, not only damages their morale but indicates an almost pathological conviction that we can do nothing right - despite 15 years of Tory rule]

Yours faithfully,

DAVID M. THOMPSON

Fitzwilliam College

Cambridge

19 August

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