The running order for the day

  1. A level results are 'the best ever'
  2. Standards are falling, A levels are being devalued
  3. To question the validity of A levels is to undermine the achievements....
  4. Repeat for GCSE next week
  5. Forget for a year, then redo from start

Number 3 is an argument that really annoys.

To have an examination system which doesn't adequately differentiate at the top end devalues excellence - which is something we should be promoting, and it does beggar belief that we could have have 20-odd years of continuous improvement. An examination system where 1 in 4 people get the top grade is skewed - by rights, most people should be in the middling grades.

One way to help distinguish the top end candidates is to print the 'UMS' on the certificate (UMS is the Unified Mark Scheme, which, in principle, allows you to compare subjects). One might do this for A grade candidates only. As an example, 480 UMS (out of 600) is an 'A' and printing the number would allow universities and employers to tell the difference between a student scraping the 480 and one who gets 600 (it does happen - typically the percentage to UMS conversion plateaus at less than 100%).

Oh, if you got your results today, I hope you've got what you need to go on and do what you wanted to do.

Update: This article has the full A Level cycle in one with 'More than one in four UK A-level entries were awarded the top A-grade this year', 'The steady improvement in results inevitably revives the debate about the standard of A-levels and whether they test the brightest pupils' and 'Schools Minister Jim Knight said ... it was a "real shame" the annual debate about standards undermined pupils' performances.'