If there’s one thing guaranteed to make me furious, it’s hearing that exams over the past 20 years have been ‘dumbed down’.
Furious because I’m the mother of a child who excelled at GCSEs and got into an academically-selective school where the standards are extremely tough; but also furious because I’m the aunt of two kids at a comprehensive who achieved beyond expectations at GCSE because of sheer hard work. These kids and thousands like them have not been dumbed down. Far from it. Nor have they ‘cheated’ their way to good results.
I was at school under the two-tier exam system, where there were three kinds of education. Those who sat ‘O’-levels and were a dead cert for uni. Those who did mostly CSEs and would leave school at 16 to go into paid employment. And those who did the City and Guilds qualifications to learn a trade.
In a way, this system was fairer, because it meant that everyone got a chance to achieve. But it was also unfair, because it meant it was practically impossible for the kid earmarked early on for City and Guilds to become a kid that did ‘O’-levels and went to uni.
Of course uni isn’t everything, and it’s not for everyone. Kids should be given different options. But I would argue that the advantage of GCSEs is that they have been a great leveller, much fairer, because it has given children a greater chance of educational mobility.
And not all kids thrive in exams. Some kids find the pressure of exams too much.
What we’re returning to, if Michael Gove and Nick Clegg have their way, is a system where not all kids are treated as equals. Where not all kids will be given the same advantages as others. It is of course a system of elitism, and from this Government, why should we expect anything else?
But they’re forgetting something. All those kids who are 16 now are eligible to vote in two years time. They will, I’m sure, see what this Government is doing to their younger brothers and sisters and siblings.
And use their votes accordingly.