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2011: King Edward VII School pupils celebrate their A-level results (from left) Joshua Green (two A's and three A*), Thomas Clarke (four A's and two A*) and Rebecca May (four A's and one A*). Picture: Ian Burt.
By VICTORIA LEGGETT, Education correspondent
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Headteachers last night said Norfolk and Suffolk students should be allowed to celebrate their A-level and GCSE results without claims of “easier exams” undermining their achievements.
Teenagers across the region will head to their schools, sixth forms and colleges today to collect their all-important A-level results.
The outcome is likely to have a major impact on their futures, with university places and job opportunities all relying on those grades.
But the area’s headteachers have warned students could once again face claims that they have taken easier exams than previous cohorts.
Brian Conway, headteacher at Notre Dame High School, in Norwich, said: “It seems to come round every year. People want to have a bash but we should be celebrating what they had done.
“It always disheartens me when we see those headlines every year. It takes away from the students’ success.”
A steady rise in both A-level and GCSE results over the years has made the annual accusations almost inevitable as excited and anxious students discover their grades.
In recent months, government ministers and the exams watchdog have fanned those claims with talk of an overhaul of both qualifications.
Just a couple of months before results were due to be published, education secretary Michael Gove revealed proposals to get rid of GCSEs in favour of a return to O-levels – having previously called on universities to help set the curriculum for A-levels to ensure they prepared learners for higher education.
In June, Ofqual, the exams watchdog, launched an official consultation on plans to overhaul the A-levels system including setting a limit on resits to stop students improving their grades and potentially scrapping AS-levels.
Last night Daphne King, principal at East Norfolk Sixth Form College, in Gorleston, said she did not agree that today’s students were getting an easier deal.
She said: “I don’t think it’s fair. I have seen the sheer hard work and determination that students put in to get these grades. I don’t think it’s fair to say they are getting easier.”
She said access to much more information on the internet had meant exams had had to change to assess different aspects of learning.
“We have to train our students to research, to question, to challenge their opinions,” she added. “It’s a different type of learning in many ways. It’s not the old by-rote learning we used to have for A-levels.”
Mark Farrar, principal at Reepham High School and College, said the annual results-bashing as soon as grades were released could have a big impact on teenagers.
He said: “As someone who has got a daughter who’s getting her A-level results, I don’t think it’s fair. It would be terribly de-motivating for any student.
“It won’t all be celebrations for everyone. There will be disappointment as well. We have to be sensitive – it’s an emotional time.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union echoed those views. She said: “Tomorrow’s results are the culmination of an immense amount of hard work by students and schools and for once it would be good if they could enjoy their success without the usual serial gripers seeking to undermine their achievements.”
She said claims about grade inflation and dumbing down impacted on students’ “confidence and self worth”.
Students hoping to secure university places off the back of their results this year could find themselves facing an even more anxious time than usual. Universities face caps on the number of students they can admit but are able to take on an unlimited number of learners who have gained at least AAB in their exams.
It means students gaining those higher grades will find themselves with even more options but those with lower grades who fail to meet a university’s offer could find it difficult to secure a place through clearing.
Mr Conway said: “The challenge is that lots of students could do really well but not necessarily get their place. Where they might have missed by a grade in previous years and still got in, they won’t be able to do that this year.”
Go to www.edp24.co.uk for live coverage of results day including how our schools have fared and lots of photos of our celebrating students.