A-levels no longer trusted says A.C Grayling, who can’t tell the difference between A and A* Says grades do not give a fair reflection of ability
Blames ‘tyranny of testing’ on pupils’ inability to think
By Kate Loveys
Last updated at 9:40 PM on 5th October 2011
A-levels and GCSEs are of such poor quality that they are no longer a reliable way of selecting university candidates, a leading academic has warned.
Professor A C Grayling said that students with a string of top grades are ‘no brighter’ than those who look ‘less brilliant’ on paper.
The popular philosopher, president of a new private university, the New College of the Humanities, made the comments during a scathing attack on the exam system.
He said that he and his colleagues will have to interview every single candidate because grades do not give a fair reflection of ability.
Professor Grayling, speaking at the annual meeting of 250 leading private school heads, said he made the discovery while interviewing youngsters for the first intake, in 2012.
He remarked that a female pupil with two As and a B at A-level was more ‘interesting, lively and thoughtful’ than one with three A*s and two As.
He has offered places to both.
He blamed the failings on the ‘tyranny of testing’, saying pupils are taught to the test, rather than taught to think.
‘We intend to interview personally every plausible-looking candidate because we can’t really rely as much as we would like to be able to on A-level and GCSE results,’ he said.
‘You can get students with very large numbers of A*s who are no brighter or promising than someone with less brilliant results on paper that are interesting and with whom a lot can be done.’
‘You can get students with very large numbers of A*s who are no brighter or more promising than someone with less brilliant results on paper that are interesting and with whom a lot can be done.’
Professor Grayling told delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference annual meeting at St Andrews, in Fife, Scotland: ‘We are subjecting our young people to exams every single year, from GCSEs through to when they leave university.
‘GCSEs, AS, A-levels, first-year module exams, second-year module exams, third-year module exams – this is a tyranny and distorts the education process.
‘They are so focused on getting an A* or getting a first in their first-year modules that they lose the point of what they are doing.’
The £18,000-a-year NCH, which is opening in Bloomsbury, Central London, had said it would only accept the brightest pupils with straight A grades.
Professor Grayling’s comments are likely to prompt claims that the NCH is being forced to accept less able students to fill its places, even though it is only seeking to recruit 180 in its first year.
A spokesman for the college said it had received 1,300 inquiries from potential applicants.
However, it has only had firm applications from a handful of students who got their A-levels this summer and are taking a gap year.