So every August we are told that increased success rates demonstrate declining standards in state schools (increased success in private schools, by contrast, is usually put down to hard work and good teaching). I reject this ration-book view of talent and opportunity. It was a bad recipe for the 20th century and is a disastrous one for the 21st. Successful societies flourish above all else by mobilising talent and educational potential. There is no genetic or moral reason why the whole of society should not succeed to the degree that the children of the professional classes do today, virtually all getting five or more good GCSEs and staying on in education beyond 16.
On the basis of rigorous standards, we should strongly welcome annual increases in pass rates. We should not bemoan the 19.5 per cent getting A* and A grades at GCSE (up from 14 per cent in 1997), and the 46 per cent getting five or more good GCSEs including in English and maths (up from 36 per cent in 1997), but ask how we rapidly increase these proportions higher still. Every 16-year-old without incapacitating special needs should get five or more good GCSEs including English, maths and (where appropriate) vocational equivalents; the challenge is to improve schools and raise social aspiration to bring this about.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Talent isn't rationed
As pupils get their GCSE results today, I'll leave it to Andrew Adonis, in a great piece in today's Times, to explain exactly why the carping and handwringing is so wrong. His piece also acts as a strong riposte to a spectacularly silly piece by Alice Thomson in the paper yesterday. As Andrew puts it: