From education to employment

Union says dont criticise the students

The University and College Union (UCU) have today panned critics who disparage the achievements of college leavers as thousands of students find out their exam results.

Commenting on today’s A-level results, Sally Hunt, UCU joint general secretary had this to say: “Today should be a day for celebration for the thousands of pupils whose hard work over the last few years has been rewarded with excellent grades. Both the pupils and their teachers should be congratulated for all the hard work they have done”.

Colleges up and down the country are reporting record A-level results. Sussex Downs College, one of the largest in the South East, has achieved an overall pass rate of 98.6%; up 2% from the previous year. Dr John Blake, Principal and Chief Executive, said: “Year after year students” grades at the College have been of been of a very high standard. It is particularly pleasing that a college like Sussex Downs with around 4,500 full-time 16-19 year old students can achieve such high quality results.”

And Sally was keen to point out that today’s students not be victimised by the ongoing debate over the success and future of the A-level. Speaking specifically about the troubled qualification, she commented: “How unfortunate that the achievements of these pupils are overshadowed every year by a debate that denigrates their achievements. Our current system is not perfect”.

In a statement delivered this morning, she outlined what the UCU proposes for the future: “The UCU advocates a move to an “International Baccalaureate” style system and there is a legitimate debate to be had about the relevance of the existing qualifications. But what is unacceptable is the relentless and unmerited downplaying of the achievements of pupils.”

And in an exclusive comment for FE News, Barry Lovejoy, UCU Head of Colleges said: “Today is a day to celebrate students achievements and the hard work of those teaching A-levels in further education as well as in schools”.

Mr Lovejoy was keen to look to the future: “When the government reviews its new system of A-levels and specialised diplomas in 2008, UCU urges them to seriously reconsider the over-arching diploma that combines academic and vocational study as recommended by Sir Mike Tomlinson. We believe such a qualification is the only way to break down the damaging perception of vocational qualifications as second class”.

“Were concerned by reports that a lack of specialist science teachers could be one of the reasons why fewer students are opting for physics and chemistry A-levels. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency”, he continued.

And in a related statement, Maggie Scott, Director of Learning and Quality at the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “Higher pass rates are the result of better teaching, better student choices and better exam practice ““ not grade inflation. Not only have teaching standards improved so that students are better prepared for the exams than ever, they now have more opportunity to choose the right course. Students are also learning how to manage their examinations better to optimise their results.”

National Union of Students (NUS) Vice President Ellie Russell this morning said: “Todays results are proof of the long hours and hard work that both students and teachers have put in to achieve such excellent results”.

“However, it is true that times have changed and that the A-level system is in need of review. For too long now we have seen vocational courses being viewed as the poor relation, with A-levels being seen as the gold standard. We need to see a shift away from assessments taken at a set age, which, at present, almost two fifths of students are failing. We also want a system which genuinely recognises the parity of students achievements in vocational and academic qualifications”.

And NUS National President Gemma Tumelty added: “This week alternatives to the present system have been put forward and we would welcome an open debate on the merits of these proposals”.

Vijay Pattni.

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