Perfect 10 at A-level could shatter ‘glass ceiling’ of A*

In an article in The Sunday Times, 12/08/12, Mary Curnock Cook, Chief Executive of UCAS calls for a new A level scoring system to be introduced.

TEENAGERS should be awarded a score from one to 10 for their A-levels because the current A* grade is failing to identify the brightest students, says the head of the university admissions service.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said the current A* at A-level was a “glass ceiling” holding back the brightest and that a new system was necessary to allow admissions tutors to identify the very top A* candidates.

Her call, in advance of this week’s A-level results, comes just two years after the A* was introduced amid criticism that grade inflation had devalued the existing A grade.

Last year, 8.2% of A-level papers were graded A*, up from 8.1% the year before. In both years, 27% of papers were awarded an A* or A. Oxford University alone turned away more than 1,200 people with at least three A* grades in 2011.

Curnock Cook, writing in Times Higher Education magazine, said: “It is worth thinking about the A* as a glass ceiling constraining the most able. Is it time to move from A* to E grading to a number-based scale, say 1-10 . . . Grades 9 and 10, for example, could be pitched above the current A* to allow headroom for more able candidates.”

Curnock Cook believes that the new system could operate alongside current grades. However, AQA, the exam board, has gone further, suggesting in a paper last month that current grades could be scrapped altogether in favour of a one to 10 score. “A* has been a great step forward, but this would create finer differentiation,” said Andrew Hall, AQA’s chief executive. “This is the next step, which is why we are floating it round the educational community.”

By Jack Grimston, Sunday Times. Click here to read the article © The Sunday Times