Just in

The State – and the state of the country

As life goes on I become more and more progressively unsurprised by anything that ever happens. Common sense, logic, just desserts and the unchanging fundamentals of human existence seem to have become old-fashioned, inappropriate and irrelevant.

I was reminded of this week as I trawled through the broadsheet newspaper websites looking for stories of potential interest.

We learn that, despite all Governmental efforts to the contrary, to date vast swathes of civil service personnel – never mind those in the private sector – have failed to return to work in their offices ever since working from home became a “thing” during the Covid pandemic and this situation is not going to change any time soon.

Furthermore, apparently, over 2.5 million Brits are “economically inactive” on long-term sickness and/or benefits because – for some reason or another, some of them quite possibly spurious – they find it hard through to impossible to “work” whilst having their busy lives paid for by the State.

Absurdity gone mad, some might think.

However, the news item that impressed itself upon me more than any other recently concerned the national “A” level results.

Flick back to 2020 and 2021 when the biggest educational issue/crisis, dominating the headlines for months at a time, was that of the plight of all our British youngsters who were supposedly facing massive difficulty in gaining their due (and/or decent) “A“ level results because of the restrictions being reluctantly imposed upon lives generally by the Covid-19 crisis– but theirs especially, because the difficulties they faced in being either taught by and/or interacting with their teachers as in the good, old days – or even being able to gain access to decent computers upon which to carry out their studies – had affected their lives so badly.

We had the spectacle of politicians of all hues on their hind legs shouting from the roof-tops, successive campaigns being launched demanding “special consideration” and indeed demands that the view of pupils’ own teachers should be taken into account in the marking of pupils’ written and other submissions, lest (through no fault of their own) their exam results did not do them proper justice.

Yes, those times were somewhat tough for our schoolkids.

But – inevitably, as some of us thought – the subsequent “leniency” granted to all of them because of the national Covid crisis then resulted in an extraordinary” inflation” in the grades being shelled out, to the extent that it was impossible not to gain impression that in actual fact a Covid pandemic was a very good time indeed to be taking one’s “A” levels ( I certainly wish there’d have been one on when I was doing mine some 50 plus years ago).

A year on, at the beginning of this week, the 2023 “A” levels results were released – and guess what?

Well, firstly – with the exam-marking and work assessment regime now broadly returned to that which had been in place before Covid – the number of top “A” level grades has plummeted or, if you’d prefer to see it this way, returned to normality. Understandable, one might think, after the “leniency” and “subjectivity” that was eventually applied last year to the efforts of those put-upon students badly affected by the Covid restrictions.

But secondly – and in my view somewhat bizarrely – there has now arisen a balloon of outrage at the 2023 results, apparently on the basis that the “grade deflation back to the previous normality” they demonstrate is somehow unfair upon this year’s pupils.

To be blunt about it, a large proportion of the UK’s education sector simply wants pupils in this country to be awarded the very best results available within the system regardless of how they actually perform in their exams/tests/project work (i.e. whether well, indifferently, or just badly). The thinking behind this attitude is, presumably that, firstly that anything less will reflect badly on the quality of teaching in UK schools and, secondly, that “giving every youngster a decent chance of making something of their lives” is somehow more important than how intelligent, hard-working, talented and/or determined they have managed to prove themselves to be via their exams.

All I see is that – when educational “results” are likely going to be poor, those with “dogs in the fight” want the assessments “eased” because not to do this would be unfair … and yet, when the conditions that caused that likelihood subsequently  melt away, those same people don’t want the assessments to return to their previous “rigour” … er … because that would also be “unfair”.