A-Level Results

August 20, 2010 at 8:45 am 4 comments

The Making of the English Working Class

The Making of the English Working Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday saw the publishing of the A-Level results for England. These results would determine whether students were successful in gaining a place at university. This year it was going to be more difficult in the past because a) the number of A grades at A-level had increased, as it seems to have done, year on year for many a year now, and, b) there are fewer places at university available due to cut backs on the back of the credit crisis and economic downturn.

Now I could have turned this into a tirade about how A-Levels are not what they were in my day; how a degree isn’t worth what it was; how ridiculous it is that the past Labour Government thought that every child in the country had a right to a university education. And, if I had, I am sure that a “lively debate” would be had by all.

The sad reality is, however, that there is a surplus of students with A grades at A level. There is a surfeit of university graduates chasing too few jobs, but a degree is a pre-requisite to getting a “decent” job. And, we hear from employers that graduates are not of a sufficient calibre and require additional training in basic communication and other skills.

Now, I could just be smug and grateful about my own life. I am of a time when A-Levels and Degrees were credible. But, I was reminded of the real issue here by a friend on Facebook, who was lamenting the social impact of this situation.

My friend, the Sarge, is a former soldier (hence the nickname), a proud and excellent parent, a hard worker, gentleman and philosopher. I know him because he used to work for an executive car firm and used to drive me to and from the airport when I was travelling on business. He reminded me that the issue here is one of social mobility. The current Government policy and the consequence of the situation described above, will mean that it is increasingly difficult for those from working class families, or worse, benefit culture families, to better themselves through the medium of education. And I think he may be correct. I think we are on course for a mighty step backwards to the 1980s and the world of Maggie Thatcher. The world that consisted of social division, rioting in the streets and the Yuppie cum “screw you” attitude in the City that caused the recent economic turmoil.

Sarge posed the question of how we stop this rot. I was moved to comment as follows.

As a Grammar School kid, from a working class and hard- working family, who earned a place at Oxford, and has not done too badly, I believe I have managed to swim against the tide of social immobility (and developed a penchant for long-winded sentences).

I managed this because my parents wanted better for their kids and prioritised education as the route to it. But, they also promoted honesty, hard work, the appreciation of value, and only having what you could afford.

I managed because my teachers were capable and disciplined and taught learning and understanding rather than the ability to pass an exam.

I managed because A-levels meant something, and, because only the top 5 % got to go where I went.

I managed because I saw that I was as good/better than those who came from privilege and those who had been given everything on a plate. And, because the fear of losing everything was/is too much to bear.

I managed because I knew that the man in the front of the car was as hard-working and as capable of wisdom and as deserving of respect as the man in the back.

My recipe:

  • Reduce the number of university places but reinstate the grant for those who otherwise could not afford/would not risk to go.
  • Reinstate polytechnics and offer more vocational courses and apprenticeships.
  • Promote learning and understanding in our schools over pure exam results.
  • Teach citizenship, values, philosophy and communication and parenting skills.
  • Install a benefit culture which prioritizes the deserving but never makes it more attractive than working for the able-bodied.
  • Regulate the credit industry so that it ensures responsible lending.
  • Never think the world owes you anything. Believe you are capable of achieving and having all by yourself. Be nice to people on the way up because you may meet them on the way down.
  • And finally, listen to Sarge.

Entry filed under: middleman. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Lest We Forget The Stig Outed Again!

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  August 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more, especially with your Recipe, which is a carbon copy of my own views, which I bore people with on a regular basis; also my background / uni / life pretty well mirrors yours! I also have a horrible feeling we’ll regress back to the anger of times past…

    By the way you always had a penchant for long-winded sentences, somtimes endearing……


    • 2. Middle Man  |  August 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

      Thanks for the comment…..now stop stalking me, whoever you are!


  • 3. Anonymous  |  August 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

    ….obviously I meant “sometimes-with-an-e”….Jeez, and I have a degree! Must be because it’s Friday!


  • 4. Anonymous  |  August 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I enjoy reading your blog, don’t flatter yourself too much!



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