Work ethic of A-level students

THE now annual debate about academic rigour misses one critical point: the exam excellence of all those A-level students across Yorkshire who met, or surpassed, their own expectations when they opened their results yesterday.

Their work ethic will serve the country well in years to come and is an accurate reflection of the majority of young people across this region whose desire and drive is not always appreciated by older generations who still contend that standards have been “dumbed down”.

Particular praise should go to those teenagers who have become the first in their family to pass A-levels and win a place a university. Their commitment shows that they recognise the importance of a world class education and the need to gain the best possible qualifications, a lesson that they will pass on in time to their children.

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No A-level results day would be the same without the intervention of national politicians trying to score cheap points against their opponents, and yesterday proved to be no exception to this unwritten rule.

However, three wider lessons need to be drawn from this year’s exams. First, the number of students applying for university places – and the fact that many institutions were being more flexible over the “clearing” process – suggests that the furore over tuition fees is slowing passing.

Second, the understandable emphasis on individual A-level and GCSE success stories should not detract attention away from those students who did not make the grade, or who left school with minimal qualifications. They must not be written off by society; innovative ways need to be found to enable them to earn their way in adulthood.

Finally, the intervention of Jonathan Taylor, headmaster of York’s Bootham School, merits further comment. His claim that Education Secretary Michael Gove is more interested in becoming the next Tory leader is a slightly unfair criticism. If this was the case, Mr Gove would not have driven through reforms that have led to a fall in the number of students being awarded top grades at A-level. If exam reform had been left to the education establishment, the crisis of confidence over standards would be an even greater one.