One per cent more pupils have achieved A-level grades A to C then last year, according to the A-level boards who published their results yesterday. There is also a 0.9 per cent increase in the overall pass rate (grades A to E) of compared to last year. The proportion of pupils gaining grade A was up from 14.8 per cent to 15.6 per cent. The results fuelled the debate over declining A-level standards and opinion was divided this week over the need for a further Government review of the exams'standards.
The examination boards said every effort was made to ensure that an A level is an A level and remained so from year to year. Alan Smithers, professor of education at Manchester University, said he suspected grades were improving because pupils were working harder and good grades were more important to schools since league tables had been introduced.
Entries for A levels have risen by 6 per cent over the past five years while the number of 18-year-olds has decreased by more than 22 per cent. Vocational subjects such as law, business studies, sport and theatre studies have collectively increased their entry by 81 per cent over five years. They now represent 12.5 per cent of the total entry.
In more traditional academic areas chemistry, biology and religious studies all saw more entries this year while geography, French, history, maths and physics were down. Particularly large decreases were noted in economics and political studies, down by 15 and 10 per cent respectively.
The Association of University Teachers and the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals called for a lifting of the Government cap on intake. The CVCP said the Government should raise its participation target from 33 per cent of school-leavers to 40 per cent by the end of the century.
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures show that applications are up 2 per cent on last year, to 403,917, while the number of places remains at 1,000.