An Oil Bubble?

Politicians and commentators have been putting the rapid oil price rise of recent months down to supply limitation and increased demand from China, producing this from the Guardian two months ago:
Number 10 rejected the view that the huge oil price rise was due to speculation, saying that on the contrary the speculation was a function of signals by Opec, and the lack of balance between supply and demand.
and from the Telegraph :
Crude prices were pushed lower as the dollar strengthened and signs emerged that US fuel consumption is dropping. The debate on whether oil prices are likely to stay high permanently has heated up in recent weeks after the crude price broke the $135-a-barrel level for the first time.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have forecast that the price could rise to $200 in coming years.
It's nice to know, then, that physicsists (especially econophysicists) have got a handle on the situation. Sornett et al reveal something different in an academic research paper lodged with the arXiv e-print archive a few days later, and discussed in the physics arXiv blog:
We present an analysis of oil prices in US$ and in other major currencies that diagnoses unsustainable faster-than-exponential behavior. This supports the hypothesis that the recent oil price run-up has been amplified by speculative behavior of the type found during a bubble-like expansion.
A rather striking graph is given which neatly predicts the recent sharp drop in oil prices. Not predicted by our own prime-ministerial economics expert, Gordan Brown.
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"A-level exams should start at Easter"

The Independent newspaper reported yesterday:
Bringing exams forward to Easter would restore the credibility of A-levels by allowing the brightest pupils to be selected for university places, according to Cambridge University's head of admissions.

Geoff Parks said A-levels should be completed by the end of the Easter term to allow all youngsters to get their results before they apply to university, rather than force admissions officers to rely on predicted grades.
Parks goes on to say that Universities cannot move their own term date back to make time for the post-results admission process, so schools must make the time for the marking and applications process.

The ATL has chipped in on the BBC with:
Four years ago an official report found that it would be fairer for pupils to have their A-level and other results before making university applications.

"Predicted exam grades are notoriously unreliable," said the ATL education union general secretary, Mary Bousted.
I can see the value of applying on the basis of final grades, but how will shortening A-Level courses in schools help students prepare for university? With much of January already lost to Unit exams and their associated preparation, the second year of A-Levels would have to be taught in little over half a year. This may not be a problem for independent schools that already have short terms and more resources, but state Sixth Forms will struggle.
One solution would be to increase the number of markers to speed up the whole process. Scrapping the Key Stage 3 SATs at age 14, or reducing them to smaller scale random sampling, will release lots of secondary school teachers to mark the time critical A-Level papers.

On the ATL comments, predicted grades, notoriously, do not correspond exactly to the final grades, but the exam grades are not very precise themselves, with a typical error margin of plus or minus a full grade. I see little evidence that grade predictions in themselves are less reliable as a measure of ability. Certainly, the fact that the two grades are not identical proves little about their relative merits.
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This weblog will explore my thoughts about the English education system, including curriculum, political and pedagogical issues, particularly around sixth-form teaching and especially Physics.
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