Thursday 14 August 2008

leave them kids alone...

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.

Sixteen years.


In them days [gestures vaguely into the distance], this were all fields......


  1. I didn't sit A levels, but I sat Highers - Scottish equivalent - in 1990. Yikes. Some of my students were not even born in 1990.

  2. I think the whole "exams are getting easier" point is barely a fraction of the argument. I think kids genuinely are working harder, simply because so much pressure is heaped upon them. Results absolutely are everything, and that's reflected in the teaching and the revision.

    I did GCSE's in 1996 and got 2 A*s and 6 As and a B. And in that case, A was the new B.

    It's the logical conclusion to a system that seeks to improve and reform, but takes testing a results as the only indicator of success. I absolutely agree that I'd hate to be in the position of "kids today." But, to be quite frank, I hated being in the position of a kid when I actually was one.

    I am not a set of grades! I am free man!

  3. Does that mean my inflation (or should that be deflation) adjusted grades would be worth ADE today then?

    So, still sh*t then... ah well.


  4. Exams in our system are solely based on getting people into the next step of Education, and that's it. Its not about learning at all.

    I failed my A-Levels.

    I could probably pass them with ease now. All I would have to do would be to spell my own name correctly and swear: