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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 7 January, 2003, 11:54 GMT
New A-level grade idea abandoned
Twins celebrating their A-level results
A fifth of candidates get the top A grade
Ministers have dropped the idea of having an extra, "distinction" grade at A-level.

The proposal, intended as a new challenge for the brightest 2-5% of pupils, was made in the government's green paper on 14 to 19 education which came out almost a year ago.

Revised proposals following consultation are due to be published towards the end of this month and it is understood that the new grade will not feature in them.

Officially, the Department for Education is making no comment until then.

Harder questions

When the idea was suggested last February, the then education secretary, Estelle Morris, said there was a need for the qualification to keep up with improving standards.

She said 20% of A-level grades were at A and there was a need to introduce an extra challenge for the highest achievers.

In the 2002 results - subject to confirmation later this month following the grading furore - 20.7% of entries were awarded A grades.

So the intention was to have put extra, harder questions in the A2 papers, the second part of the new A-level.

A new tier of paper designed to stretch the more able students - the Advanced Extension Award - was introduced for 17 subjects in 2002 but attracted only about 7,000 entries, less than 1% of the total entries for the main A-level papers.

And critics of the proposed new grade argued that it was unnecessary.

The National Association of Head Teachers said that if the intention was to identify the high fliers then the introduction of an A* grade was the simplest way to do that - as has been done for the top performers in the GCSE exams taken by 16 year olds.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | Education
21 Aug 02 | Education
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