ANYONE who thinks today's generation of A-level students have it easy should consider the case of 18-year-old Rowan Weston.
Two years ago, he chalked up an A grade in maths at just 16. Since then, he has worked his way through another six, as a student at Wyke sixth-form college in Hull. This week, he was awaiting results in physics, chemistry, computing, psychology, further maths and general studies.
His further maths lessons took place on a one-to-one basis during lunchtimes, as he was the only Wyke student taking the course.
It takes him an hour each way to travel to the college from his home, 30 miles away, near Bridlington. But he has still found the time to work as a cleaner at the weekends, and to take driving lessons: he was also taking his driving test this week.
The modest teenager made light of his daunting workload. He said: "I spend an hour in the library after school waiting for my dad to pick me up to take me home, which has helped with my work."
Ministers may take heart from his views about the A-level system. Having studied maths before the Curriculum 2000 reforms, which introduced AS-levels, he said he preferred the current modular system.
"The ability to take modular exams at different times has helped reduce the workload," he said. "I have also found it useful to know what marks I had in each module in order to know what I needed to concentrate on before the next batch of exams, as have many other students."
He also said he thought last year's regrading controversy had had little effect on students. "We have enough to think about with exams, coursework deadlines, revision sessions and all the other distractions that exist for students to worry about whether we can trust our results."
He added that he was not completely convinced by the idea of an English baccalaureate. He liked the ability to specialise provided by A-levels.
Students wanting greater breadth of study could take extra AS-levels.
Rowan hopes to study physics and computing at Manchester university.