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"The Government is letting down children in the more disadvantaged areas who, as a result, fall behind throughout their time in school."

Not wishing to defend the Labour Party but one has to question what the government can really do in the face of parents who just aren't interested in the education of their children.

I was talking to my neice a couple of days ago. She has now got 2 As and a B and has been accepted by her preferred choice.

She was amazed that back in the mid 1960's I needed 3Cs at my first choice and 2Es at my second, both now Russell Group, to study Physics. I managed to get 3As and two special papers but that was enough to win a County Senior Scholarship.

My strongly held personal view is that awarding so many Grade As does neither the students nor the Universities any good.

Maybe Richard, just maybe, students actually work harder nowadays and can get 80% +. Although, as of next year, A*'s shall be awarded (for 90%+).

Maybe Gove should also highlight that students in NI (where academic selection still takes place), 35.4% got a grade A compared to a 25.9% average across England, Wales and NI.

Maybe with his Policy Exchange links Gove will suggest northern students should move down to the south to help them catch up! :@)

I was amused to watch a Sky News interview earlier today. The invited three young women all of whom had done very well in their A-Levels into the studio (make what you will of the lack of any young men). Of course these young women should be congratualted.

When asked the three girls indictated that their choices for careers were fashion, journalism and acting. Now whilst I would not deny any person to follow their dream if this is representative of the types of careers young people are aspiring to we are hardly going to resolve the underlying reasons for our economic woes by young people going into such areas.

It is clear by repeated reports that we are facing a dearth of skills in recruiting sufficient people into essential areas such as the Sciences that will strengthen our countries economy and our nations public services. Isn't it about time Government started to provide incentives to young people to take certain courses that will benefit the country(say by making these courses free once more?)

I noticed grade inflation back when I did A Levels in '02. My entire history class (apart from I think one person who got a B) got As despite there being a wide range of abilities. Lots of people got full marks on one of the tests too.

Then there was the way our economics grades were much higher than we were scoring in class tests.

Beyond New Labour, you beat me to it. LOL.

In his pre-election-that-never-was, We Will Fight, Britain Will Win, speech last year, Mr Cameron suggested possible solution to grade inflation:

"It is fine to make the QCA independent but that won't help unless the exam bodies are really put under the one group of people that want to make our exam system rigorous and tough and believable for the long term and that's the customers. That means business, it means the universities, it means the colleges, they want our exam system to be robust for the long term and so do I."

There was a good article in the Times on these lines called A Banker's Solution to Grade Inflation.

I don't think I've heard any more on this idea from the Conservatives since Mr Cameron's speech, but I hope it will find its way into their manifesto at the next general election.

Well Done! A* for this analysis Mr Gove - perhaps wehen we find out why the levels of achievment differ so markedly we will have really cracked the cause of the North South divide.

I don't think we should underestimate the role of the internet as a resource tool and in being a great boon to education. When taking my A levels I only had the local library for research and the books that happened to be on the shelves at home. Young students today have unlimited resource material and easy access to study techniques online. My great worry with today's generation is that too much emphasis is placed on rote-learning with little in-depth knowledge of the subject matter at hand. This can lead to students cramming to pass the exam and then not retaining the knowledge afterwards.

@Eveleigh Moore-Dutton
It would be interesting to know if those figures are for state schools only. If employment is higher in the South-East, it seems logical that private schooling would be higher too.

One of the most tedious AND mendacious recent trends that government spokespeople are displaying, was on show this lunchtime, when a 'spokesperson' for education was asked about the North/South statistical divide, and the less than exceptional results obtained by state schools as compared to the private sector. This latest TRICK is NEVER to admit that anything is less than perfect, then refuse to refer to unflattering statistics, and as at this lunchtime - if they cannot avoid the evidence of some unflattering statistic - the said statistic is CLAIMED to be a Conservative fudge, although not exactly directly (but then the newscaster - being unprepared for that tactic - didn't confront the spokesperson head-on about his claim).

So now we have EVERY minister repetitiously claiming that everything in the garden is just fine, and whereas they used to blame anything adverse, that they could not avoid, on conservative policies ten years ago, NOW, somebody?? has instructed to actually accuse the Conservatives of producing inaccurate figures etc: etc: - WELL! WELL! THAT IS SOMETHING THAT THIS LABOUR GOVERNMENT IS VERY ADEPT AT DOING ITSELF!! So isn't a case of 'pot calling kettle black'!

Good to see Gove focused on his job again !

Ulster Tory made an excellent point when he mentioned how many more students in NI (where academic selection still takes place) get an A grade.

Herding everybody not rich enough for Eton into the comprehensive system is bound to disadvantage the smartest kids.

Sorting this out must be one of the next Conservative governments priorities.

Ulster Tory has a point - students do work harder nowadays - they are tested to destruction with lower sixth exams and retakes of retakes. Unfortunately that doesn't mean they have learned any more or are any brighter than their predecessors.

Quite simply if a third of the students can get an A, the exam is too easy.

"By their works shall ye know them".

What do college admissions tutors, the CBI and the good academic independent schools/grammar schools all think of A levels now?

Admissions tutors cannot rely on them to separate the able pupil from the outstanding one, The CBI say they are not fit for their purposes and the good independents (and I suspect all 164 grammar schools) say that they don't challenge their potential scholars, so they move to the IB.

What has happened over the last decade is not really fair on the pupils who do work hard for their A levels - especially in the "hard" subjects - and deserve credit for passing what is put in front of them.

It is not their fault that it is no longer the gold standard that it always used to be but neither is the proposed Diploma the answer to the problem either.

That needs a change in government to begin with and a return to more rigorous standards.

Bring back banding. Adjust the passmarks so that the top 20% in a subject get As, the next 20% Bs, the next 20% get Cs then Ds then 20% fail. That way grading is regular from year to year and you KNOW that A and B are the top. The grades mean something predictable.

Likewise Richard, in '82 needed only 3Cs to study Physics at Imperial Colege

Deborah "Quite simply if a third of the students can get an A, the exam is too easy"

That is an interesting statement. Where can I look to see what % of students in each subject got an A? I wonder what % of A level students studying say Physics this year got an A from State Schools excluding Grammars, then what % from Grammar and Private schools. Also what % of Media Studies students got an A grade from State schools (I understand Grammars and Private don't take this examination to compare?)

"I wonder what % of A level students studying say Physics this year got an A from State Schools excluding Grammars, then what % from Grammar and Private schools".

You really must not ask such pointed questions, a-tracy at 17.22. The Department of whatever it is now called might get quite flustered, because they don't like to talk about private schools in case the suggestion arises that it is not only money that makes a difference.

Especially as Ulster Tory at 12.22 also says:

"..students in NI (where academic selection still takes place), 35.4% got a grade A compared to a 25.9% average across England, Wales and NI".

One day, perhaps, we might be allowed to talk about selection in certain parts of our school system!

Having received my A-level results today, I am dismayed by the expected calls from certain people that A-levels are getting too easy and need to be made harder.

The problem is not to do with the difficulty of exams. It is not physically possible to make many of my exams - most of which were essay subjects such as History and English Literature - "harder", as the questions are so broad that they invite a wide-ranging response. The skill of organising your ideas effectively is virtually unaffected by the question set. (I can't speak for science subjects as I didn't take any.)

Instead, what needs to be sorted out is the grade boundaries, so that it is possible to distinguish between those scraping As and those getting 100% in modules (which is certainly not impossible, in my experience). Hopefully the introduction of the A* grade from next year will help with this differentiation.

After this week's debacles it probably isn't the best time for Gove to point out the North-South divide here. The point's been made.

Could he not get a Labour constituency/council vs. Conservative constiteuncy/council breakdown, which might be more encouraging.

Amazing - young men can read "Zoo" and "Loaded" and still pass exams!

After re-reading this page, apologies to Richard for the tone of my comment at 12:19 - I had just received my AS Level results, and was quite irritated by people saying the exams were easier, and getting good results was easier.

I agree with Edward Taylor, though perhaps grades could be decided by the top X percentage of results? (Example: Top 10% get A*'s, Next 10% get A's, etc.)

Not sure that Michael Gove’s SE/NE comparison stands up if the results are standardised for social class. The difference is probably explained by the higher proportion of AB households in the SE. He could probably find a greater contrast between the results in Surrey and those in Hackney or Tower Hamlets.

Does he not have a numerate researcher to do some numbers for him?

One of the single most important factors in standards of education are the quality of headteachers. Where you have an excellent headteacher a great deal can be achieved (almost despite funding and the area) and where you have a poor headteacher everything gets dragged down. What we need is a system that produces the best headteachers in the world and sacks poor headteachers very quickly.

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