Exam fever breaks from today

Stand by for the usual tears of joy and gloom as well as the charges of dumbing down that will greet today’s A level results. GCSE results follow next week. The local papers are braced to write the usual “Northern Ireland tops the league” stories while tastefully ignoring for the moment the broad ranks of our “Neets,” the young people not currently engaged in employment, education and training.” Update And sure enough, after the results came out at 9 a.m. the stories got written.
For many who haven’t yet won provisonal uni places the nightmare of clearing begins. The Times of all the papers probably offers the best support. But away from all the emotions of the hour, long overdue change in the controversial system is about to happen. Will it be enough?Are A levels dumbing down? If not, why are they not feeding the skills shortage better with tough subjects like maths? If so, why are kids feeling more and more pressure? Why is the education gap widening between richer and poorer kids? Will the creation of a formal A star level and the introduction of a 5,000 word dissertation increase confidence in the exam? Education Guardian sets out the issues. The Independent sets out what’s gone wrong, the obsession with targets that has swamped the system.
Adds. I agree with much of this overview from Mary Riddell I’ve just read in the Daily Telegraph, although I wouldn’t dump testing altogether.

A new diploma of qualifications designed to raise standards and strike a better balance between academic and vocational learning is being introduced in England. Why not in Northern Ireland? While congratulating kids for all their hard work and wishing them well etc., let’s widen the debate beyond the usual complacency from the grammar schools. And we will return later to their Achilles heel – academic selection at 11.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that in the Republic, there are concerns that the system there too isn’t delivering all the skills needed to revive the Tiger’s roar.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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