Children as young as eight will, from December, be granted the opportunity to take A-level examinations in their schools. All state-ran primaries will be required to offer the qualifications to their attendees on an opt-in basis, Education Secretary Ed Balls announced yesterday, with subjects such as maths and English likely to become compulsory for 'year-sixes' before 2012.
The move comes as part of the Government's plan to counter accusations of 'dumbing down' in their institutions; a rigorous testing previously reserved for sixth-form and college students will now be available for prepubescents, they say.
Parents of younger pupils are advised to encourage their offspring to study towards these exams. "With competition for university places fiercer than ever, it is vital that gifted youngsters be given a chance to stand out from the crowd," said Balls.
When asked whether the decision to offer A-levels to less ready candidates was related to their decrease in difficulty, Balls was irritated, saying "no, absolutely not."
Mary Williams is currently revising for her Chemistry A-level, which she will sit in May next year. She is five years old. "I learn[ed] how water can make jelly when it is hotted [sic]," she told reporters. Mary is predicted to achieve a 'B' grade.