A-levels – how much do they really matter?


By Candice Krieger
August 15, 2008
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So, it has been another record year for A-levels results. The national pass rate soared above 97 per cent for the first time. Jewish schools in particular were celebrating – Immanuel College achieved a 100 per cent pass rate for the third year running, with students at King David High School in Manchester gaining an average of two A grades and one B each.

Yet let’s not get too excited by all the hype.

I would like to spare a thought – and offer some consoling words – for the students who didn’t do so well. I am a strong advocate for a decent education, having myself followed the school-more school-and university route, but I don’t believe exams are the best indicator of potential or employability. In fact, exams really aren’t the be all and end all. Many of the most accomplished and prominent players in the business world left school without an A, O, G, C, S or E between them.

Take Sir Alan Sugar for instance. He left school at the age of 16 and started selling car aerials and electrical goods out of a van he bought for £100. Today, he is worth an estimated £830 million.

And then there is jeweler Gerald Ratner, whose GeraldOnline business generates an annual £20million turnover. Ratner left school without any qualifications. His first job was washing dishes in a North London coffee shop for 25 pence a day. Former Hilton Hotels boss Sir David Michels has gone on the record saying, “although I would always encourage kids to take their exams, it doesn’t mean one can’t succeed without them. There are other necessary skills.”

Indeed.

Surely, when it comes to employability – and happiness for that matter - personality, character and ambition are just as important as any number of A grades. And so, to those less academic: fear not. Sir Alan certainly didn’t.

(And of course, Mazel Tov to all of you who got the grades you wanted.)

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Helen Feld

Thu, 08/21/2008 - 06:58

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You give examples of men who have been successful in making money. What about Princess Diana? She had no exams, but through beauty, grace, personality -- and the right marriage -- became a universal icon.

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