The week

7th August 2009 at 01:00

If test results go up, it's dumbing down. If they go down, it's the end of the world as we know it. So it was with the latest key stage 2 results. The proportion of pupils getting the target grade remained the same for maths and science, but saw a one percentage point drop in English. Cue panic. Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, described it, grandly, as a "historic drop". The tabloids reverted to their standard alarm about the thousands of children leaving primary school "unable to read or write" (ignoring, as always, the fact that most of those pupils got level 3s, which technically means they can read the tabloids).

The annual test result moans will continue later this month when university admissions tutors will complain they can't pick between applicants because everyone gets A grades at A-level nowadays. Intriguing, then, that figures The Observer published this week from a parliamentary inquiry showed that the proportion of university students receiving firsts has nearly doubled since 1997, up from 7.7 to 13.3 per cent (over the same period, the fraction of A-levels graded A rose by just over a half). So either school leavers are getting brighter after all, or grade inflation is even worse in higher education. Tut tut.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, announced a whizzo scheme to help end grade inflation: an online archive of test papers going back to the Victorian era. This would "make the decline in exam standards transparent". Handily, they are also planning to publish the examiners' reports - which may surprise those who assume that past pupils' answers were as erudite as the questions. As one 1920s examiners' report noted: "Most candidates had little scruple about writing down sheer nonsense."

Finally, the Daily Telegraph reported that parents were furious a private school had entered their children for the International Baccalaureate. The disappointing IB results of several students at the Pounds 21,000-a-year Brentwood School in Essex meant they will miss places at their first-choice universities. One student said the qualification had been a "shocking mistake", while a mother told the paper: "Cambridge said they preferred A-levels because they are more focused." So who has been telling schools that the IB is "superior"? Step forward the Telegraph's senior editor Simon Heffer, who has previously suggested schools should switch to the IB because A-levels were only fit for "intellectual dwarves", "bona fide dolts" and his dog.

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