Friday, August 18, 2006

A Level Results. The Debate

A Level Papers in 1936 (Above) compared with 2006 (Below)

Every year around this time, we have the same old debate.

Are the girls in the newspapers shown opening their A Level results getting easier on the eye?

First of all, I asked a Government spokesman Mr. W. Lyar who assured me that the standards were closely monitored each year and their had been no 'dumblonding' down.

Then I spoke to the Head of a leading Teachers Union, Mr. C Ward who said:

"Every year we get the same accusations. You have to bear in mind that fashion and styles have changed over the decades so a direct comparison is very difficult. However we believe that there is no evidence at all of any change."

So there you have it.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A BBC news story reports that 24.1% of A Level entries achieved grade A. Schools minister Jim Knight indicated the possibility of an A* grade being introduced. A teaching union rep said this would "increase stress and anorexia in 16 to 18-year-olds"."

Anonymous said...

Do you think that the grade D I got in A level Law in 1993 could be upgraded a tad? It should be worth at least a C by now!

Anonymous said...

My wife bought me your book for my birthday. I was expecting not to like it, to be honest, but it arrived on Saturday morning via Amazon and I read it from page one to the end without stopping.
It's a truly great book, in my opinion. OK, I'm a teacher so I'm biased, but AT LAST a book about this profession which tells it like it is! I read Francis Gilbert's books last year and enjoyed them, but this knocks them into a cocked hat, as my dad used to say.
Like you, I had massive hopes for education when Tony 'Education, Eduation, Education' Blair came to power. At last, I thought, a politician who's going to do something about it. A decade later, it's worse, if anything.
The central point you make, as I understand it, is that it's all very well retreating from disciplining children, and treating them as quasi-adults, and getting them to 'discover' rather than be 'taught' (these are all things I agree with, in principle) if the discilpine is there to back you up. The problem is that, as you correctly point out, in a class of 30 kids, all it takes is one or two serious, hardcore troublemakers and the lesson is ruined for everyone.
In my day (as a pupil) if I'd told a teacher to f*** off (not uncommon, honestly) or consistently disobeyed instructions or been violent to teachers or other pupils I'd have been caned or excluded. The cane has gone (I'm glad about that, but it was a deterrent) and exclusion is rare and the other punishments are meaningless or ignored, as you say. Thus, the lesson is dragged down to the level of the troublemakers. In the worse schools, the proportion of trouble makers is higher and the damage greater. As you says, it's no exaggeration to say the bad kids in your school are ruining the lives of their fellow pupils, not just a few lessons.
It's a funny book as well as being quite serious and I urge all teachers, parents and most importantly, MPs and ministers, to read it.
10/10 Frank, good work!

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, some of us worked really hard on out A-levels and got nowhere (2 Ds). The girls you see in that pic probably have rich parents, and didnt have to hold down a 30-hour PW job as well as study for their A-Levels.
Some of us work till we go insane, get all deadlines met, fail miserably and THEN have to hear this bollocks about how "A-Levels are getting easier". what utter shit. Could it not be that student's standards are actually increasing? Or, god forbid, that TEACHERS are actually getting better at their jobs? that could account for the pass rate increase at least. Or maybe that has something to do with the fact that students aren't entered for the exam if they are destined to fail.

Shame you believe all that crap about A-Levels getting easier, being a teacher and all. I'd have thought you'd have known the real reasons.

Still a good blog though.

Anonymous said...


A levels are demonstrably getting easier (independent studies, university and employer evidence, straightforward comparison of papers, the ridiculously ever-rising, Stalinist pass rate).

However, that may well not be the only reason you didn't do very well, and I agree with your comments about richer students.

I've just finished reading Frank's book and he makes the point very clearly that it's students from poorer backgrounds who are suffering because of the collapse in educational standards. He says something like 'it used to be a ladder for the poor, now it's a ceiling' (apologies if not quite right) and he's absolutely spot-on.

I don't think (he'll have to speak for himself when he gets back off holiday) his post is an attack on students like you. It's an attack on the system that lets students like you down.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

This story comes round every year like Christmas. It's so obvious that exams are being dumbed down.

Jennytc said...

I've just discovered your brilliant blog courtesy of Ellee Seymour. I left my job as deputy head of a primary school and took a year away from teaching, before going back to supply teaching (financially driven!) last year. I'm looking forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

great blog and great book frank.
you're saying things that many people consider unsayable for reasons of political correctness but they have to be confronted because currently children's lives are being ruined in our schools.
discipline, proper teaching and weeding out the bad kids - we need to retrun to those NOW for the sake of the millions of good kids who suffer in silence.

to kat taylor (above): kat, i followed your link. you seem to spend most of your time on an internet site you either set up or co-run? maybe that explains your poor results?

depressed teacher

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading your book, Frank. I couldn't put it down.

You're absolutely right - it's superb. And very entertaining, despite the subject matter. I laughed out loud many times. Well done! I wish you lots of success with it.

I particularly liked your analysis of the 'benefits society', along with all your other insights and suggestions for improvement. Also, I found your description of parachuting to be so thrilling that I now want to try doing it myself.

As a picky, pedantic old git who's pointed out the odd spelling error in your blog, I'd like to take up your offer of pointing out any I found in the book. Well, I didn't spot any real ones, though on page 54 you mention 'Trinny and Suzannah' when in fact I believe that the latter name should have an 's' instead of the 'z'. You need to watch more TV.

Oh, and you should check the sentence that begins 'It's strange how...' on the 13th line of page 174, because Mr Monday's proofreader obviously didn't!

There. Just showing that I did indeed pay attention and wasn't simply messing about at the back of the class, pretending to read.

Hope you had a great holiday. Look forward to more blogging from you. Please let us know about any reviews etc that the book gets.

PS Where I live, term starts tomorrow... :-(

Anonymous said...

Kat Taylor - Its been said already but how else do you explain the ever rising pass rate. Either children are suddenly getting brighter or somebody is mucking about with the exams. I know which I would put money on. Its the pupils who suffer ultimately by being lied to like this. You have my sympathy.