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Record year for A-grade students

PUBLISHED: 10:39 15 August 2002 | UPDATED: 12:28 03 March 2010

TALES of astonishing achievement were today starting to pour in as hundreds of thousands of young people got their A-Level results in a record year for passes and A-grades.

TALES of astonishing achievement were today starting to pour in as hundreds of thousands of young people got their A-Level results in a record year for passes and A-grades.

Headline statistics showed the pass rate rose from 89.8 per cent to 94pc, while the proportion awarded the top grade rose to more than one in five.

The stand-out result so far was achieved by 11-year-old Ilia Karmanov, from Ealing in west London, who became the youngest person ever to pass an A-Level in computing.

He joined the ranks of Britain's brainiest children and said he was 'happy' at the result and had ambitions to study for a doctorate in computer science at university.

But generally, girls comprehensively beat boys yet again.

The results sparked the now-customary chorus of criticism from some quarters — notably the Institute of Directors — that A-Levels have been "dumbed down', a claim rejected by ministers and teachers.

The improved pass rate came despite a drop in entries from 748,866 to 701,380, suggesting sixth formers were dropping subjects they struggled with at AS-Level.

AS-Level entries were up more than a quarter from 794,117 to 995,404. Although the pass rate declined 0.1pc to 86.5, the proportion of entries awarded A grades rose 1pc to 18pc.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said students were learning how to play the new system, which was introduced in September 2000, to maximise their chances of getting into university.

"Students have used the AS-Level process to generate the best possible results in order to gain a university admission or good jobs."

He continued: "At the end of the first year, students can drop their worst subjects or retake. Or they can concentrate on their strong subjects.

"Two AS-Levels equals an A-Level for university. That's why there's been a drop in A-Level entries."

A poll released earlier this week by the Joint Council for General Qualifications, representing the exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland suggested students were fed up with negative coverage at exam time.

Seven out of 10 felt their hard work was undermined by the attacks and 60pc expected sceptical comment from employers.

Ruth Lea, head of the policy unit at the IoD insisted she was not denigrating their achievement.

But she added: "We continue to believe that yet another record-breaking year for A-Level pass rates is symptomatic of endemic and rampant grade inflation.

"We must ask ourselves 'what do we want from A-Levels?' since it is clear that they are becoming increasingly meaningless."

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