Since 1980, the proportion of 18-year-olds achieving two or more GCE A-levels has doubled from 14 per cent. to 28 per cent.
I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent news about the increase in GCE A-level passes. Of course, it is due to successful Government education policies. Will my hon. Friend tell the House what steps he intends to take to maintain the rigorous standards of A-levels and thus public confidence in them?
We are absolutely committed to the maintenance of standards and rigour in A-levels and that is fundamental to the remit that we have given to Sir Ron Dearing's review of the qualifications framework from age 16 to 19. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has also invited the Office of Standards in Education to undertake a further inspection of GCE A-levels and to report in 1996. That inspection will deal with such matters as consistency of standards in GCE A-levels over time.
Does the Minister accept that a proper comparison of A-level successes could be made only if other qualifications on offer to older students were also taken into consideration, including the higher national certificate? Will he take the earliest opportunity to consult his hon. Friend the Minister for Merseyside to find out whether a way can be found to save the theatre wardrobe course in Liverpool—a higher national certificate course of the highest quality, which is a great success and attracts students from throughout the country, but which, unfortunately, is due to close?
I can report to the House that, alongside the success of GCE A-levels, there has been a massive expansion in the range and quality of vocational qualifications. I advise the hon. Lady, however, not to smuggle in a question about a particular course, which I am empowered neither to provide nor to withdraw, although I recognise her concern. I cannot answer at the Box for that suggestion.
Does my hon. Friend agree that grant-maintained schools in the north-west have done especially well in their results and that no grant-maintained school in Lancaster or Cumbria has had to declare any permanent teacher redundant?
I agree with my hon. Friend in every respect, save that her encomiums for grant-maintained schools are characteristically confined to the north-west, whereas we on the Government Front Bench would apply them to the entire country. They are successful schools with very high standards.