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Examination Passes

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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4.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the number of students in their final year of statutory education who passed O-level examinations or obtained grade 1 passes in the Certificate of Secondary Education in 1976; and what proportion of the age group this number represents.

This information is not available in precisely the form requested as the data collected by my Department relate to pupils at the time they leave school and not specifically to the final year of statutory education. The provisional figures for 1976 indicate that 707,000 left school of whom 341,000— about 48 per cent. of school leavers—had gained at least one O-level grade A to C or a CSE grade 1.

Does my hon. Friend agree that that regrettably partial answer suggests that extensive and substantial achievement is being secured by our schools? Does she agree, further, that the proportion of our young people who have secured success is now very much higher than many Opposition Members expected and certainly a great deal higher than those responsible for the Black Paper would care to admit?

My hon. Friend is correct. The figures which I have quoted compare favourably with those for 1966, when the comparable percentage of school leavers was only 38.

Is the Minister aware that The Times Education Supplement on, I think, 15th April published figures showing that, although in 1971 18·76 per cent. of school leavers received five O-levels or CSE grade 1 equivalents, by 1975 the figure had fallen to 17·14 per cent., which is a fall of 8 per cent. in four years? Does not that indicate some form of decline which has been clouded only by the huge bulge of numbers going through schools which must be brought out by some form of comprehensive introduction?

No, I do not agree. Furthermore, I shall be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman on this matter. He has quoted these figures before—

If not these, he has quoted very similar figures. I must tell him that according to my Department's statisticians he has got his figures wrong.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of children who took the CSE examination in 1976 achieved a pass at some level.

The information is not available in precisely the form requested as the data collected by my Department for 1976 relate to school leavers and is not confined to pupils having taken CSE examinations that year. Of the 484,000 school leavers in 1976 who had taken the CSE examination at some time in their school career, 473,000 —nearly 98 per cent.—had gained at least one grade 5 or better.

I thank the hon. Lady for that reply. Does not the very high level of passes—98 per cent. obtain a pass at some level—indicate the futility of holding examinations if everybody passes and virtually nobody fails?

I am at a loss to follow that argument. If fewer people had passed, the hon. Gentleman would complain about the failure of the education system.