by Tim Ellis/Reuters

PALMA/LONDON
SIXTH-form pupils have set a new record for top grades at A-level and the pass rate has risen for a 26th consecutive year, the examinations body said yesterday.

This verdict was certainly proven true at Queens College here on Majorca where ninety-nine percent of sixth-form students achieved at least a pass in all their subjects.

Furthermore, 87 percent achieved at least a “C” grade and 48 percent achieved at least an “A” - a fantastic result when compared with the average 25.9 percent of A grades for A-levels this year.

Perhaps the most outstanding achievement is that of the top three students. Between them they managed to rack up a total of 15 “A” grades at A-level and 5 “A” grades at AS level in their various subjects.

Two of the students, Clara Mascaró and Maria Cañellas will be heading to Cambridge at the end of September where they will also join ex-Queens pupil Joan Groizard, who has just finished his first year at the university. “I am absolutely delighted with the results this year”, said Queens College head teacher Heather Muntaner. “It is the best set of results we have ever had and its only made better by having three students of such a high calibre, as well as the fact that the average student took 4.1 A-levels which is exceptional”.

According to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), the overall pass rate edged up to 97.2 from 96.9 percent. “The results show not only an improvement in the grades achieved but also an increased entry for mathematics, sciences and languages,” said JCQ Director Dr Jim Sinclair. The rise in the pass rate is likely to reignite the annual debate over whether the “gold standard” exam is getting easier.
Some universities say it is hard to select the best candidates when so many students earn top grades.
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell denied suggestions the exam has been dumbed down to boost pass rates. “Anybody who articulates that A-levels are worthless is flying in the face of reality,” he said in an interview with the Independent yesterday. “It is still an internationally reputable qualification.” Earlier this year, one of Britain's top universities, Imperial College London, said it was considering setting up its own entry exams - rather than relying on national tests.

This year a record 827'737 A-level grades were issued while girls continued to outperform boys, although the gap is narrowing.
The most popular subjects were English (89'778 candidates), mathematics (65'239) and biology (56'494) - the number of chemistry, biology and physics candidates rose by between 2 and 3 percent. There was good news for languages as well as entries increased for French by 2.8 percent and Spanish by 1.5 percent, despite being down for German by 0.9 percent.

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