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Nick Gibb welcomes record A-Level high

By Joseph Willits 
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Nickgibb The annual event of A-Level results day is upon us once again.  The usual feelings of anticipation and excitement will be mixed with disappointment, and a deep rooted cynicism over the fact that year on year, results are at a record high.

For the 29th year running, A-level results have passed this record high with the overall pass rate for this year being at 97.8 % (that is those achieving an E grade or higher).  This has risen from 97.6% last year.  250,000 teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be receiving their results today.

The results have seen more than a quarter – around 27% of students – obtaining an A grade or higher.  The number of boys achieving an A* (the highest grade) has drawn level with the statistics of girls achieving the same.  8.2% of boys achieved an A* grade, up from 7.9% last year, with the share of girls also being at the same figure, a small dip from last years’ figure of 8.3%.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP, welcomed today’s results, centred on the achievement of Britain’s young people, in contrast to the riots of the past ten days.  He said:

“The last ten days has seen huge public debate about the appalling behaviour of a tiny minority of young people. Today, however, we can all celebrate the success of the hundreds of thousands of students who have worked hard and are collecting their well-earned results.”

Gibb also said that students have done their “part by working conscientiously and taking the exams put in front of them”, and that now “we in Government have to do our part to make sure our qualifications match the best in the world and keep pace with the demands of employers and universities.”  You can watch Nick Gibb’s statement here.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) will be experiencing their busiest day ever.  40,000 clearing places will be available, with an estimated 220,000 students competing for them.

The Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme whether it would be an option to increase the number of university places, to avoid the situation of more and more young people claiming benefits.  He responded:

“There will be people who sadly don’t get places. By and large it is a competitive system, it always has been.  People who get the grades necessary, they have got a place, and for those who don’t there are other options. They can of course move into work or combine that with part time study, go and try to improve their A-levels, perhaps take another subject or retake an A-level and apply again in 2012.We are trying to make sure that there’s a range of options for young people because I know it’s a tough time for them.”

Willetts also said that the Government has responsibility in “easing the stress” and that “even in tough times we are delivering more apprenticeship places and a record number of university places.” He told the Daily Telegraph earlier today that "traditional" subjects such as foreign languages and maths should take precedent over more modern subjects - he highlighted dance and media studies not being core academic subjects.  The Higher Education Minister also suggested that UCAS should "signal the importance of some A-levels more than others" and that "the message is often hidden behind a tariff point model".

It's worth noting how careful Gibb was not to enter the debate about exam standards.  He won't have wanted to open himself to the charge of denigrating the work of students and teachers.  Gove was back from holiday last year to respond to the GCSE results, and will surely do so the same later this month.  After which both Ministers will no doubt return to their drive to raise standards.

You can watch David Willetts' speaking about record numbers of university places on BBC Breakfast here.

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