Friday, 1 October 2010

New A* Grade Is Evil Weapon Against Underprivileged Children!

I find it extraordinary that people are seriously advancing the argument that the UK's new A* grade widens the gap between state and private education.

There's a long article on the subject in the TES which explores the issue. Here're a few representative quotations:

In August, before results day, Sir Martin Harris, director of the Government's Office for Fair Access, said he expected the A* to be "disproportionately achieved" in independent and selective schools.

The grade "does increase the risk that the brightest disadvantaged young people may be squeezed out of the applicant pool for the most selective universities", he warned.


John Bangs, former head of education at the NUT and now visiting professor at London University's Institute of Education, [says]:

"The A* is going to become essential for Russell Group (of Britain's 20 top) universities," he said on results day. "They will use it to filter candidates, the interview process will go out of the window, and it will be to the advantage of independent school pupils."

And, finally:

The real question is, did the A* widen the gap?

Last year 19 per cent of A grades went to state grammar schools and 31 per cent to comprehensives - virtually the same as this year. But independents only managed 27 per cent of A grades in 2009 and so have gained a greater share of this year's top grade.

So yes, the gap has widened, although not by a huge amount. Does that mean it will also help independent pupils tighten their grip on places in the most selective universities?

Now, you know that the Intellectual Hooligan is no fan of A level grade inflation. But this is a bizarre and twisted perspective, surely? 'Did the A* widen the gap?'

No it clearly, clearly did not. Imagine we have a windowless room, lit only by a candle. In the dim and flickering light, the vague outline of a small crack is visible in the ceiling.

Someone turns on the light. It can now be seen that this small crack is actually a gaping fissure.

TES then publishes an article asking, 'Did the lightbulb widen the crack?'

I fucking despair.

Let's think about this, shall we? What's going on is that state schools are not (in general) achieving the highest standards, relative to private schools.

That is definitely a problem. Absolutely.

And what would be the ideal solution to this problem? Hey, how about we — maintain an exam system that masks this disparity!

Oh piss off, you shitfaced bunch of intellectual pygmies.

Because I utterly deplore this mendacious tendency by both media and opportunistic politicians/public 'servants' to act as apologists for failing state education by pointing the blame at more-or-less impartial measures that highlight the failure.

(Staggeringly, this perspective would be considered 'right wing' in some quarters, when in fact its implication – that we should focus on actually improving state education – is surely a cause that ought to be entirely central to left wing thinking. Indeed, I can't actually believe I'm writing this post, so bloody obvious is every single one of my points. But when I read a long, evidently laboriously-written article in a publication like the TES that utterly fails to make these blindingly straightforward observations, I begin to wonder.)

How has this arisen? This ugly tendency for any kind of focus on actual standards to be painted as divisive and anti-state? This shoot-the-messenger approach whereby a new grade for high achievement is accused of disadvantaging state school pupils – when what is fucking clearly disadvantaging state school pupils is the goddamn state school system.

I should add that I don't for a moment think that all state schools fail their pupils. All I'm saying is: if a high-jumper doesn't clear the bar because his legs have been tied together, we don't blame the sodding bar.

Oh, wait a minute: I've a solution.

How about if we tie everyone's legs together?

Yeah, that ought to do the trick.

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