After months of hell for teenagers across the country, GCSE and A-levels are done. To everyone who went through it, well done.
Daughter #1 finished her A-levels with a Spanish essays exam while daughter #2’s ultra-marathon slog of TWENTY-THREE EXAMS IN FOUR WEEKS ended with her final physics paper.
Afterwards, they had that thousand-yard stare look in their eye I’ve seen once too often at the finish line of the Great North Run. No elation, no relief, just hollow and numb. Without wishing to blow our own trumpet, we’ve got two intelligent, confident and highly motivated teenage daughters. But they’re so sick of being ground down by our results-based schools system that they’ve jacked in mainstream education. From the age of four, our kids are tested to destruction. At age 11 children sitting their SATs are expected to know pointless nonsense like what a subordinate clause is. Do you know what a subordinate clause is? I do, but only because I’ve got a degree in English and have been a journalist for 26 years. To everyone else, nit-picky grammar is like reading the terms and conditions of the next software update on your iPhone.
So we fill our kids’ heads with pointless rubbish, make them sit at desks for six hours a day, give them hours of homework every night, prep them for exams for years and then wonder why they’re unhappy. Oh, and while all that’s going on, there’s the raging horrors of social media; where you gawp at everyone’s highlights reel while at the same time replaying your bloopers over in your head again and again. Anyway, the teachers aren’t to blame for this. The ones I know feel the same as I do. Former education secretary Michael Gove’s got a lot to answer for. While he was in the job it seemed he went out of his way to antagonise every teacher in the country (three separate votes of no confidence passed by three major unions in 2013 are testament to that). But would you trust a man to reform the education system who, so the story goes, once had to be stopped from trying to unblock his toilet with a vacuum cleaner? I know I wouldn’t.