THE recent A-level results are impressive. Congratulations to the many successful students and also thank you to the supportive and effective teachers in our schools.
In an increasingly competitive world, the right grades can make a huge difference to career prospects and life quality.
The results confirm two welcome developments in our education system. Firstly and crucially, more teenagers from poorer backgrounds are heading to university. This is great news for society as whole; providing genuine opportunities for everybody has been a core aim of the Coalition Government’s education reforms.
The second piece of good news is the number of school leavers now planning to go to university. For the first time, some 500,000 university places will be offered and taken up this year. This is a powerful vindication of the Government’s decision to increase university fees, made all the more so by the clear evidence of a move towards degree courses leading more directly to employment.
Underlying all of these encouraging outcomes is the trend for more girls going to university. This should help overcome the current chronic shortage of girls in engineering. Indeed, a key objective of this year’s Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering is to open up engineering to girls in order to attract more designers, innovators, researchers and managers to this part of our economy (event Saturday, November 29, hosted by Renishaw).
The Education Select Committee has been investigating and highlighting many of these issues over the last few years (I have been a member since 2010). Several of its reports have addressed the question of social mobility, access to universities and examinations so these results will be an important indicator to incorporate into further inquiries.
School governors can take considerable comfort over these results. My own experience as a governor (notably as chairman at Marling) has informed my work in Parliament to further strengthen governance for this purpose.