Well, say what you like about the kids of today - and let's be honest, they get a pretty terrible press on the whole, what with all those hoodies and knives and binge drinking in bus shelters and things.... but they are "working harder than ever before" and are clearly getting brighter and brighter.
A-level results are out today, and that's the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the fact that the pass rate and the number of 'A' grades awarded has risen for the twenty-eighth consecutive year, with the pass rate (papers achieving grades A-E) now sitting proudly at 97.2%. Over 25% of all papers marked now get 'A's.
The Government, of course, deny that the exams are getting easier (whatever would give people that idea?), but have been forced to go on the defensive against the Universities: record numbers of university applicants now have three 'A ' grades, making the allocation of places something of a lottery. Many of these candidates will struggle too, finding the gap between the end of the A-levels they excelled at and the beginning of their degree course has become mysteriously large. Ministers have announced plans to expand the number of pupils who undertake university-style dissertations - worth half an A-level - in the form of an extended project while doing A-levels. So, exams aren't getting easier, and A-levels haven't been fatally devalued, but students are going to be asked to do more work to supplement their results and to provide some kind of an indicator of their academic potential? Where do you go after 'A*'? Is an 'A' the new 'B'? Much though I'd like to get on my high horse about how things were so much harder back in the day, I actually feel sorry for the kids here. From their point of view, I'm sure the pressures of sitting these exams are pretty much the same as they ever were, and the wait for that envelope (or txt msg or whtevr) isn't any easier. They can't help the fact that everyone says the exams are easier, and in fact, if I was in their shoes this morning, I'd be feeling righteously annoyed at the haters denigrating (only got a 'A' in English? use a dictionary...) my achievements.
To be honest, the thing that disturbs me most about this whole thing is the realisation that I sat my A-levels in 1992.... 16 years ago.... and people were saying even then that exams weren't what they used to be.
In them days [gestures vaguely into the distance], this were all fields......