GCE O-level Passes
Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science

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Mr Tony Newton (Braintree)

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.

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Mr Gerald Fowler (The Wrekin)

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.

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Mr Tony Newton (Braintree)

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?

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Mr Gerald Fowler (The Wrekin)

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.

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Sir Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire South West)

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?

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Mr Gerald Fowler (The Wrekin)

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.