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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
A-levels and GCSEs 'too easy'
Bunsen burner
Pupils are not being stretched intellectually
A deputy headmaster of a 9,800-a-year independent school has claimed GCSEs and A-levels are "too easy" and not "stretching" pupils intellectually.

Richard Cairns, of Magdalen College School in Oxfordshire, made the comment after 83 of the boys who sat English and Maths GCSE gained A* or A grades.

He believes the results show the difficulty universities face choosing between the best candidates.

In September Mr Cairns will become headmaster at Brighton College.

Pupils are piling on more subjects rather than trying to stretch themselves by doing something different and challenging
Richard Cairns, deputy head of Magdalen College
Mr Cairns said: "GCSEs and A-levels are just too easy, I'm afraid.

"Pupils are thinking they need to do more and more in order to differentiate themselves from others so they are piling on more subjects rather than trying to stretch themselves by doing something different and challenging.

"It's like building 15 roads rather than building a bridge. They are not being stretched intellectually."

He believes the Government is failing the top 5% of school pupils with A-Level and GCSE courses encouraging quantity of study rather than quality.

This summer's results at Magdalen College also revealed no grades fell below A for the boys who took German, Greek, Spanish, religious studies, chemistry and geography.

'Talent squandered'

Mr Cairns added: "These are obviously very pleasing results for the boys at Magdalen, many of whom have worked very hard, but they also demonstrate why we can no longer depend on GCSE or A-Level examiners to stretch and challenge our most able students.

"It is effectively left to individual schools to provide the extra intellectual stimulation that bright teenagers demand.

"But some schools are much better placed than others to offer this extra dimension.

"Some very clever boys and girls from academically deprived backgrounds are doubtless missing out, their talent squandered.

"There is, in my view, a stronger case than ever for the state to support scholars at leading independent schools, selected on the basis of academic ability and genuine financial need."

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