By Matthew Barrett
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The media coverage of today's A-level exam results has focused on two statistics. Firstly, that the overall pass mark increased to 97.8%, and secondly, that the number of students awarded top marks dropped for the first time in twenty years (good).
The crackdown on grade inflation, which produced the second statistic, is yet another of Michael Gove's ideas to get the education system working honestly once again. It's no good awarding top marks if the level of real knowledge being gained is decreasing.
The unions' response to the results have been extremely sour. Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT union, said:
"The Coalition Government can take no credit for these results which is why it takes every opportunity to imply the system is ‘dumbed down’ or lacks rigour. These results have been achieved by teachers who, despite pay cuts, attacks on their working conditions, slashed funding, loss of specialist support and attacks on their professional status and competence, have worked hard to do the best they can for their pupils."
The NUT echoed this, saying:
"These results are a real testament to the commitment and hard work of young people and their teachers. The Government should recognise this rather than continually undermining such achievement with talk of grade inflation and dumbed down qualifications."
The two largest teaching unions seem intent on denying reality. Who can seriously argue that students have become more academically successful every year for the last twenty years? All the unions can do is congratulate their members. For a more realistic assessment of this year's exam results, the British Chamber of Commerce said:
"Business will welcome the fact that the constant grade inflation seen in previous years has finally been constrained. Companies tell us that they have had a hard time assessing the skills and abilities of job candidates with A-level passes, to the point that only 29% of businesses surveyed in 2011 felt very or fairly confident in hiring a school-leaver with A-level qualifications. An end to grade inflation will improve business confidence in the qualifications achieved by young people."
Who would you trust to give a truthful appraisal of this year's results – vested interest unions, or an organisation representing the businesses that will actually be hiring those getting their results today?