§ 7. Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West)
If she will make a statement on this year's A-level results. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis)
The A-level results published on 16 August 2001 are provisional. A copy of those provisional results has been placed in the Library and final figures for this year's results will be published in November.
§ Mr. Bailey
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. My local authority of Sandwell saw a further improvement in A-level results this year, but I was concerned by some of the public comments about a dilution of standards. Will my hon. Friend confirm that no such dilution has taken place, and does he agree that such ill-informed comments are grossly demoralising and insulting to the thousands of hard-working pupils and teachers throughout the country?
§ Mr. Lewis
I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. It is about lime that we started to celebrate the achievements of our young people and pay tribute to the support of the teachers, governors and parents in our education institutions. A-level results this year demonstrated that pass rates for grades A to E were up by 0.7 per cent., and A to C pass rates increased by 1.1 per cent. on last year. Some of the comments made have been investigated objectively and found to be absolute nonsense. The basis of the suggestions that standards have been undermined are flawed. When our young people do well, we should be positive, support them and draw attention to their achievements, not talk them down and make them feel that they are in a no-win situation. The Government are proud of having raised standards in all areas of education, and we continue to subscribe to that commitment.
§ Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight)
Will the Minister share his knowledge of the A-level results in non-selective and selective schools and compare that with the evidence of the National Federation for Educational Research report, published last week, which—taking social class and other factors into account—showed how well pupils in selective schools were doing at A-level? Will he welcome the fact that the Government's attempts to allow selective schools to be driven out of the system seem to have ground to a halt?
§ Caroline Flint (Don Valley)
I welcome and celebrate good A-level results, but will my hon. Friend comment on this country's coin [lining obsessive belief that A-levels and GCSEs are the only worthy qualifications for young people to have? We need to consider vocational qualifications, which would be more motivating for many young people, instead of the GCSEs and A-levels for which they get poor grades.
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree with my hon. Friend's comments. One of the Government's challenges is to create parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications. We start from a low base, but we will review the entire 14 to 19-year-old phase of education for that reason. We want to create an education system that is diverse and plays to the strengths and aspirations of every young person. For some young people, that will mean an 403 exclusively academic route and for others it will mean a high status vocational route. For others, it will mean a mixture of the two. The key is an education system that is tailored to the needs of the individual young person. When we publish our proposals on 14 to 19-year-old education in January, we will begin to demonstrate what we mean by that vision.
§ Mrs. Annette L. Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole)
My education authority of Poole has the lowest sixth form funding but excellent A-level results are achieved. In order to ensure the improvements that we all desire, will the Minister ensure that when the new funding arrangements start in April, the lowest funded authorities will be considered carefully and brought up to parity with other authorities?
§ Mr. Lewis
I am sympathetic to the point that the hon. Lady makes, but it is relevant to consider the baseline figure that her local authority chose to spend on those establishments. We have made it clear that the Government are committed to a real-terms guarantee on sixth form funding. When responsibility moves to the Learning and Skills Council, that commitment will be maintained. We are working on the baseline figures for 2000–01 for the start of those new funding arrangements.