It's that time of year where we mock the students who have worked hard for the past 12 months for being handed A grades on plate. Gradually over the years, there is more and more truth in the accusations that standards have slipped with the convenient spin for government that education standards are rising. The problem is, no one believes the spin anymore. It is being reported today that one in four grades at A level is now an A. One in four?! Not only that, but pass rates are now at 96.9%. A-levels are now no longer a qualification in themselves, but rather another stepping stone on to University. But this in itself creates many problems.
I do not believe university is something that we should be expected to go to. It undermines the system and merely becomes an extension of school. University should be for those who crave academia, not a minimum requirement if you just want to be able to get in the queue for a job. If the standards at school were higher, then employers wouldn't have to look at a minimum 2:1 degree to even begin to consider someone for a job. Due to the poor standards at schools, I am sure that many have wasted three years and thousands of pounds on going to university all because they know their A-levels are not worth the paper they are written on.
This has also created an engineered system where there is pressure on universities to take on students from a mix of backgrounds rather than genuine selection of the best students. The government likes to interfere so much in education that they are against any sort of selection at any level of education. But for whose benefit exactly? Far from improving standards, they are actually keeping them down. The Independent reports today that independent and selective state grammar schools are overwhelmingly responsible for the rise in A-grade passes at A-level. It is in state selective schools and independent schools where the mass rise in A level passes lies. In other words, standards are slipping but the schools that do not select are keeping up with the changes whilst the selective schools are steaming ahead.
Things are set to get worse, too. Next year will see the introduction of the A* at A level. Rather like the 11 volume setting on the amp in Spinal Tap, it is not actually going to mean it will be a higher standard paper, rather there are so many people at the top of end of the results that they need to separated in to two sections. This will highlight even more the gulf between selective schools and those that are not. The government should give schools more reign to control how they manage their pupils and stop interfering. It is the only way standards will rise. It is an insult to the students who have worked so hard over the past year that their results are becoming more and more meaningless, a situation that the government has engineered through meddling because they thought that was the best thing to do. It wasn't.