Today's news

August 18, 2005

Rise in A-level passes the smallest for 20 years
A-level results improved for the 23rd year in a row today. The overall pass rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 96.2 per cent, while the percentage of A-level students awarded an A grade went up by 0.4 per cent to 22.8 per cent. The rise is smaller than had been predicted in some quarters - the increase in the overall pass rate was the smallest since 1983, although the increase in people getting A to Cs increased by 0.9 per cent. However, this increase will be enough to put pressure on the Clearing system, with record numbers set to confirm a place at university today.
The Guardian , The Times , Daily Telegraph

Record exam grades fuel scramble for university
There was confusion last night over the impact of the A-level results on the clearing system in the final year before the increase in university tuition fees to £3,000-a-year. Some universities gave warning of an intense scramble for fewer vacancies as students sought to beat the fee increase. But others predicted less pressure because more candidates had gained entry to their preferred university and more had opted to take a gap year.
The Times

Diploma alternative to A-levels is ruled out
The Government has hardened its stance against a major reform of A levels, despite rising concerns over the vast increase in the number of students receiving A grades. The Schools minister, Lord Adonis, insisted "A levels are here to stay", sparking an outcry from almost the entire education world, which favours switching to a diploma.
The Independent

University admissions unfair, say heads
The current system of university admissions should be scrapped and replaced with one that allows pupils to put off applying until they know their A-level results, the Secondary Heads Association said yesterday. It called for results day to be moved to mid-July, increasing the time between publication and the start of the academic year from five to 11 weeks, and for applicants to be restricted to two university choices instead of six.
Daily Telegraph

Growing foetus cells could start treatment
Stem cells from growing foetuses can infiltrate the mother’s brain and start to form new tissue, research in mice has shown. If the same observation is made in human beings, it could lead to new, non-invasive treatments for diseases such as brain damage, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Researchers in Singapore believe that the cells migrate to repair damage in the mother’s brain, New Scientist reports today.
The Times

Skin grafts farmed from foetus
Skin from an aborted foetus has been used to create skin grafts to treat eight children with deep second- and third-degree burns, Swiss scientists report today. Patrick Hohfield and colleagues at the University Hospital of Lausanne report in the online edition of The Lancet that they have developed a "bank" of tissue from a small patch of skin taken after a terminated pregnancy, with the mother's consent.
The Guardian

Scientists warn of GM superweed risk
Scientists have identified 15 weed species that are resistant to a herbicide widely used on GM crops and are warning farmers they may become a serious problem unless a strategy for dealing with them is developed. Some of the most common weed species, including types of ryegrass, bindweed and goosegrass either have some strains with a natural resistance to the widely used GM herbicide glyphosate or have developed one. Writing in the journal Outlooks on Pest Management, four scientists argue there is a danger that by ignoring the threat these weeds pose, farmers may be giving them a huge advantage over other plants which are killed by glyphosate.
The Guardian

28m bugs given their marching orders
The greatest mass migration of insects and spiders ever seen in this country is under way across the Thames. Before their home is demolished to make way for a £66 million extension, 28 million insects and spiders are being taken from the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The move to temporary storage across London in Wandsworth is the latest stage in the museum's Darwin Centre project, which will provide a secure home for vulnerable plant and insect collections and give the public the chance to explore them for the first time. Until the new building is completed in 2008, the insects, and the 120 scientists that work with them, will have temporary homes in other parts of the museum and at the special south London storage facility.
Daily Telegraph , The Independent

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