Imagine that you make turbines for jet engines. Imagine that you have a 2 per cent failure rate for your finished product. Suppose that each of your products costs £3,000 and takes 600 hours to produce. Imagine that you produce one million a year. Your 2 per cent failure rate costs you £60 million a year and 12 million hours of people’s time. Then imagine that your below-standard turbines are actually fitted to jet engines that go into service. Extraordinarily, this is equivalent to the waste produced by our A level system every year. A million qualifications taken, about £3,000 spent on each one over two years and 2 per cent failed. Yet every year the call is not for lower wastage and less failure but for more.

As A level results roll in today (and we hope you got what you wanted!), Jon Coles, former Director General for Education Standards at the Department for Education, mourns the wastage in the system


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