Today's news

August 13, 2003

A-level pass rates reach record high
The pass rate at A level has risen for the 22nd consecutive year to over 95 per cent, results out tomorrow will show, although the rate of improvement has slowed. Ministers and the exam boards are braced for the perennial claims of grade inflation because of a rise of about one percentage point in the proportion of A-E grades. The proportion of A grades has also risen slightly.

Universities to take A-level failures
Thousands of students who will find out tomorrow that they have failed their A levels may still be in line for a university place. Although up to 12,000 youngsters will have failed their exams, they will have a lifeline in the form of new routes into higher education being pioneered by ministers to help them achieve their target of getting 50 per cent of all 18 to 30-year-olds into higher education by the end of the decade.

Scots fear literacy fall as 40% fail Higher English
A big fall in the number of pupils passing Higher English exams has fuelled fears about declining standards of literacy in Scotland. The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) disclosed yesterday that the Higher English pass rate was 59.2 per cent this year compared with 64.7 per cent last year. This year's figure was more than 13 percentage points lower than the 2001 pass rate of 72.4 per cent.

UK scientists grow stem cells from IVF embryo
British medical researchers have grown human stem cells derived from spare IVF embryos for the first time. The embryonic stem cell "line" will be the first to be added to a national tissue bank that could become the basis of a revolution in transplant surgery to treat a range of incurable conditions from heart disease to senile dementia. (Independent, Telegraph)

Grandparent childcare 'slows learning'
Babies left with their grandparents when their mothers return to full-time work become slower learners at school than those who receive paid childcare, researchers at Bristol University have found.

DNA detective uncovers bronze age violence
The world's oldest ice mummy has been hiding a violent and bloody secret that was only teased out of him by detective work on evidence 5,300 years old. Before dying, Oetzi - the bronze age man found 12 years ago in the mountains between Italy and Austria - had killed or injured at least four
other people.
(Guardian, Independent)

Atkins diet is 'pseudo-science', say experts
The high-protein, low-carbohydrate Atkins diet that has become the fashionable way to lose weight was criticised as "pseudo-science" by health experts yesterday. The eating habits encouraged by the diet, which favours consumption of eggs, bacon, meat and cheese and frowns on bread,
pasta, fruit and vegetables, might help people shed the pounds in the short term but poses long-term health problems.
(Guardian, Times, Independent, Telegraph, Daily Mail)

University quiz to lure kids
A university is luring new students by challenging them to a pub-style quiz - including questions on sex and booze. The University of Glamorgan has put its quiz on billboards and bus stops as students get their A-level results.

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