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Glad that schools left the bell curve behind

Letters
·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Alamy</span>
Photograph: Alamy

I was interested to see Stephen Rees’ letter (20 November) about his degree classification in the 1970s. I was an A-level examiner from the 1980s until the 2010s. During that time the awarding of grades moved from being done according to the bell curve (placing groups of results in particular grade bands according to the size of cohort) to measuring actual performance against an agreed set of criteria.

In the 1970s there was still a mindset in Britain that only a certain number of students in higher education should achieve high grades; those of us who were female had already experienced this discrimination at the age of 11 because there were far fewer grammar school places for girls.

Maybe the fact that university examinations now assess a much wider range of students from across our population – in gender, ethnicity and social background – than they did 50 years ago could account for the fact that levels of performance are higher. If that is so, it is certainly good for the future of the country and a fact to be celebrated, not denigrated.
Sarah Sheils
York