A level hype
Now, by "hype", I don't mean that I don't think that A level results are unimportant to the kids taking them. They probably seem the most important and life changing things they have ever faced. Which is true in a way... but let me reassure anyone reading this who has just got their results (good or not so good) that a time will come when you no longer put what you got in your A levels on your cv, and when no one will even ask you about them. Blessed relief it is too.
I will now hereby confess what I haven't been asked to confess in more than 20 years that -- although I did get 3 A's in Latin, Greek and Ancient History back in 1972 -- I only got Merits, not Distinctions in my S Level Latin and Greek. Not only does no one now give a toss, but very few people can even remember what S Levels were. There is nothing so well and truly dead as a dead exam.
No, what I am referring to is the newspaper frenzy of interest in the whole results ritual.
The bottom line is that students now are no more or less smart than in "my day", they are probably over all better taught, and although they know different things from what we knew, and although I would like the priorities of some of the exams to be differently targetted, I dont see any real evidence for "dumbing down".
It is salutary to read, as I did a few weeks ago (and have no reason not to trust the source) that in 1959 -- the hey day of the grammar schools -- only 9% school pupils overall got 5 O'levels at whatever grade. The truth is that we are rightly expecting more of more of them.
Anyway, because I was travelling, I had a chance yesterday to catch up on the papers' thoughts on the results across the board. And pretty dismal reading it made, too.
The overall pass rate we are told had "dipped" for the first time in 32 years from 98.1% last year to 98% this year. If this is statistically significant, someone better qualified than I am had better say; but I would be very surprised if so. And I would be even more surprised if it was anything to do with Mr Gove.
Likewise we might be pleased that Computing has had an 11% increase in takers, surely that must be correlated in some way with the 9% decrease in ICT (information and communication technology). It suggests a shift to between two different version of IT skills, and we need someone who actually knows to explain the significance.
As for the rest, I dread to think how long battalions of poor journos (sometimes helped by proud schools and parents) have been scouring the country to find identical twins who are likely to get the same A levels result (preferably one goimg to Oxford and one Cambridge, or some brave cancer survivor who has just done brilliantly even though some of the papers were taken in hospital, or a kid who spoke no English aged 12 and will now be going to read Medicine with a clutch of A stars....or worse the unfortunate, even if very clever, young person who has collected a record breaking roster of 12 A stars, plus a couple of desultory As.
If someone could explain to me what the point was of taking 12 A levels, working yourself to death and having no time for all the other things teenagers ought to be doing (like grouching and growing up), again I would love to know.
Meanwhile cant we just leave the kids who have done well, and those who have not done as well as they would have hoped, to celebrate or console themselves in private.