Thousands of university rejects to resit exams

Author: By Richard Garner, Education Editor

Many of the 60,000 disappointed candidates, who are likely to include scores
with top-grade passes, are likely to take a gap year with a view to
re-applying next year. As a result, those who have failed to get top grades
will feel under increasing pressure to boost their grades by resitting their

Fiona Pocock, who chairs the Council of Independent Education, which
represents so-called ?crammers? geared to getting youngsters into
university, said: ?We anticipate higher demand for short resit courses in
all the CIFE colleges.?

The youngsters are likely to opt for short one-term resit courses because
January will be the last time this year’s students will be able to resit the
exam under the present syllabus. A-levels change next year to a system of
more open-ended questions designed to stretch pupils’ thinking skills.

A growing number of universities will opt out of the clearing system, through
which students without an offer can get a university place, because they
believe more youngsters will achieve their predicted grades this year.
Oxford, Cambridge and University College London traditionally do not use the
system. This year they have been joined by Bristol. In addition, Warwick and
Imperial College London say they will have few places.

Anthony McClaren, chief executive of the university admissions service UCAS,
has already said he expects ?intense? pressure on clearing this year. Last
year, 44,000 students found places through clearing but ?it may be half
that? this year, he said.

Applications for places have soared by 10.3 per cent overall to just over
600,000 this year. The rise in home-based applications is even higher, at
12.5 per cent. But there will only be 13,000 extra places, including 10,000
earmarked for science and maths-based subjects announced by Lord Mandelson,
the Secretary of State for Business and Industry, last month.

The rise in resits also coincides with a growing row over whether youngsters
should be allowed to keep on retaking their A-levels. In an interview with
The Independent last month, Lord Suther

land, who chairs the Chartered Institute of Education Assessors, the body
which represents exam markers, called for a ban on resits except in
exceptional circumstances.

He said it was necessary to give A-levels more credibility in the wake of the
year-on-year rises in the number obtaining A grades. The figure is expected
to rise again this year, with predictions that about 26.5 per cent of all
scripts will be awarded an A grade compared with 25.9 per cent in 2008.

But Jerry Jarvis, the managing director of the Edexcel exam board, argued that
resits should continue to be allowed, pointing out that the growing number
of people who managed to conquer the peak of Everest did not mean that the
mountain had somehow become easier to climb.

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College
Leaders, said it was necessary to keep a resit option open. ?I think there
are circumstances in which people need to do a resit,? he added. ?They may
have been unwell or below their par. I think it is reasonable to give them
that door.?

He said he questioned the need for resits this year. ?Students resit because
they don’t achieve their potential,? he said. ?I don’t see why there should
be any more in that category this year.?

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