HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1409-10
3. Mr. Newton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of GCE O-level candidates obtained two or more Grade 1 passes in 1967; and what was the equivalent percentage in 1975.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

The exact information required is not available. Until 1975, GCE O-level examination results were reported only as passes or failures. Since then Grades A to E have been awarded, of which A, B and C may be taken as equivalent to the former "pass". In 1967, 80 per cent. of the 234,000 pupils who left school after attempting O-level achieved two or more passes; in 1975, 64 per cent. of the 340,000 who attempted O-level achieved Grade C or above in two or more subjects.

Mr. Newton

I accept that the statistical evidence is not easy to interpret. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Labour Members obviously did not listen to the answer. I accept the problem of making comparisons over a period of time, but does the Minister accept that recent reports and studies of examination results have enhanced parental and public anxiety about standards? Will he accept that it is time that Ministers gave time to responding to that aspect rather than put the best possible gloss on each piece of evidence?

Mr. Fowler

I was unaware that I put a gloss on some rather complex evidence. The most significant feature is the very greatly increased number of pupils who are taking O-levels. That is partly the result of the raising of the school leaving age. The other evidence is susceptible to more than one explanation, and I would not wish to hazard a view at this stage.

Mr. Cormack

Will the Minister turn his face firmly against those who would propose the abolition of "failure" and ensure that, whatever changes take place in the examination structure, those who pass pass and those who fail fail, so that we know which is which?

Mr. Fowler

I do not wish to comment at this stage upon proposals to change the examination structure. I should be delighted to aboblish failure from our society.

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