Thursday 17 September 2015

No sooner has ...

... your sixteen year old received their GCSE exam results than the rhetoric begins. First we get the newspaper headlines that tell us that passes are up but grades are down or grades are up but passes are down. Then they're picked apart by the statisticians for anomalies or trends . The cockier students will post their results on Facebook or Snapchat or LookathowbriiliantIam social media sites and parents will bask in their children's reflected glory ... or otherwise. Nothing new here and if your children have worked hard and tried their best then why shouldn't you rejoice in their success ?

It's the 'otherwise' that upsets me. The students who tried their hardest but didn't quite make the grade . Or those whose brilliance is in the creative arts , the poor relation of the academic subjects ... sadly. The Holy Grail of a pass in both English and Maths , required of every sixth form, can prove an insurmountable hurdle to those whose sixth forms hopes have been dashed on enrolment day by a refusal to accept them onto their chosen courses because they failed to grasp the finer points of a simultaneous equation or only managed to list 14 of the 15 points in the pre-determined list of things you should have spotted in a written passage if you've got half a brain.

And then there are the schools' own websites  where the Heads wax lyrical about their students' achievements and why shouldn't they if it has been earned and well deserved ? But this is where my despair reaches new depths as I read the following in my son's school newsletter.

The GCSE grades were equally impressive with 92% of pupils achieving A* to C grades. We also saw a significant increase in pupils achieving the very highest grades with 102 A* grades awarded to our pupils. This is particularly pleasing because in the last two years we have worked hard to stretch our brighter and more able pupils.

Oh dear. Did no-one pass this by the ' this is guaranteed to piss off all parents and pupils who didn't manage to reach the giddy heights of excellence' voice of reason ?  
So, if you're gifted, bright or able and managed a long list of A* grades - you can be classified as 'pleasing' but anything less and ... well , draw your own conclusions.

How sad that only the 'brighter and more able pupils' were stretched. If you fall into the 'must try harder' brigade you're damned to an eternity of under achievement. And incidentally, have humans not evolved beyond the 'must try harder' ignorance of public school education of the last century , when you'd be treated to a lashing if you hadn't memorised Homer's Iliad by the age of 8 ? Why not go the whole hog and make them stand in the corner on a stool wearing a pointy hat with a large D on it ?

So, the 'brighter and more able pupils' got stretched whilst the less bright and less able got what? In my book, I like to consider exam achievements as falling under the Comparatives and Superlatives headings of ...

GOOD - A student who can achieve an A* grade without getting out of bed - minimum effort required because he/ she has memorised every textbook to within an inch of its life on first reading and who thinks revision is for wimps. 

BETTER - a student who has managed to achieve a decent grade by working hard and being conscientious.

BEST  - A student who can pass an exam despite having spent most of their school life believing ( and possibly being told ) that they'll never amount to much and that their E grade in the mock exam is their own fault because they haven't put in the effort despite knowing full well that said student is dyslexic or dyspraxic ( or possibly both ). Their C grade is worth a million A* grades and just think ... they may well have actually achieved this despite being tossed onto the forgotten pile of those not considered to be 'brighter and more able' and been totally unstretched to boot.

I seem to write a post like this every year and it never seems to get any better . So, in my loudest voice possible ...


As Rudyard Kipling once wrote  - Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.


  1. What a great post. I heartily agree with it all. A C grade can be so much more of an achievement than an A* depending on the student

  2. Hear bloody hear!!!!!

  3. I get annoyed that teachers seem to pick the easy option by concentrating on the more gifted students!