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Universities 'must be clear on A*'

Universities must be clear about whether students need to gain an A* at A-level to win a place at their institution, a private school head has warned.

Dr Tim Hands, master of Magdalen College School, Oxford, said there was a "general coyness" about the new top grade.

"There's so much uncertainty about the A* grade," he said, adding he believed that some universities "are using it but not acknowledging it. There's a general coyness about the A*, because it was a political leper."

Dr Hands added: "There should be an encouragement by Government to be transparent about the use of the A* at all stages of the admissions process - applications, offers, acceptance and clearing."

Dr Hands was speaking as Magdalen College came second in a new A-level league table of private schools. In total, 90 sixth-formers at the school notched up 303 A* and A grades between them, with an average A and AS-level Ucas points score of 505.

Wycombe Abbey, a girls' boarding school in Buckinghamshire, topped the table for the fourth year in a row. The school had an average Ucas points score per student of 531, and 267 exam entries were awarded at least an A.

Three years ago, the National Council for Educational Excellence raised concerns about the lack of data available on the reliability of students' predicted A* grades. In a report it called for the Government to collect and review data in the first few years of the A*, before it was used by universities in the applications process.

The latest league tables are based on data provided by the Independent Schools Council, which represents more than 1,200 private schools in the UK and overseas.

National A-level figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications last week showed that independent schools accounted for 13% of A-level entries this year, and 30% of all A* grades awarded.

In comparison, state comprehensive schools accounted for 37% of entries and 26% of A* grades awarded. The rest of the entries came from grammar schools, academies, secondary moderns and colleges.


From Belfast Telegraph