Saturday, 18 September 2010

Give our kids a break hey?

Originally printed in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, August 19 - the day the A level results came out

Aug 19

Today, like many parents, I will be eagerly waiting by the phone. For, during the course of this morning, I will find out how my son has done in his AS levels and how my daughter has fared in her A-levels.

I’m trying not to put any pressure on them (hence I will keep them far away from this column!) but I’ve sensed in the last couple of days their tension rising as they prepare to go to school to collect those dreaded white envelopes.

My two are just like the hundreds of others in Bath and surrounding towns and villages who will be collecting their results over the next few days (the GCSE ones are due on Tuesday) and it is on days like these that I’m just so glad I’m no longer a teenager.

Personally, I think that the pressure on our 16 to 18-year-olds today is far more than I ever felt when it came round to exam results collection time. In my day (and yes, I do accept that is a phrase we always swore we’d never say when we were younger!) the pressure to do well in exams normally just came from yourself or possibly your parents.

Nowadays youngsters have to face incredible pressure to do well from not only their school but also, it strikes me, from society as a whole.

The school pressure comes from the fact that not only do our wonderful teachers (for I do have an enormous amount of respect for that profession) want to see their pupils do well for the sake of the youngsters themselves, but also because the school is under enormous pressure to do as well as possible in the league tables.

Personally, I hate those league tables as I don’t think they truly capture the whole essence of a school’s life – I’m sure there must be schools nationally with great exam results but where bullying is rife, for example, so how can that be a good guide?

However, many parents do take the tables seriously nowadays and because they have what I see as the ‘illusion’ of choice they are more likely to send their sons and daughters to schools high up the table. And that means teachers are desperate for their charges to do well to ensure they stay afloat in that artificial premier league.

And then we come to the pressure from society. It is not only in things like league tables that youngsters are judged these days but they also have to face the rather pointless but relentless claims that no matter how hard they work it is all irrelevant because the exams are so ‘easy’ these days.

So, unless something is very different today, most news bulletins will include phrases like ‘record results’ but will be swiftly followed by words like ‘amid claims of dumbing down’. This is poppycock.

It is virtually impossible to judge an exam today against one 10 years ago and even if it was possible then it is not the fault of youngsters – they don’t set the papers.

So let’s please try and give the students some respect if they do well. Let’s not spoil any celebrations our youngsters feel if things have gone well by sneering childishly ‘well, of course, they have, things are so easy at the moment. Just give ’em a break, hey?

Rant over. Phone at the ready.

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