Not every child is an A grade student. Why we must not let B/C/D be shameful.

simulatore per opzioni binarie Is homework ruining your weekends?

option binУЄre iq I’m about to go on a rant. I hate homework.

Un'migliori azioni binarie è uno strumento derivato in base al quale l'acquirente dell'opzione acquista il diritto, ma non l'obbligo, di acquistare un titolo (detto Controversial, as I’ve been a teacher for 22 years and I’ve personally set hundreds of hours of homework in that time.  But I am becoming increasingly aware of a society in which the only results that anyone wants for children, be it parental or for school statistics, are the bloody As and A*s. I remember knowing that my peers who scored As were those who were exceptional in that subject. An accident of genetics had made them shine at art, or music or maths. They were in the top 2% of the class. That is why they got an A (there were no A*s back then – and that’s another issue – making the top even higher and wider so even more people feel they have to cram themselves in.) I remember feeling happy for them and not feeling worried that it wasn’t me. There were loads of us in the B and C group and we were fine. Yet here we are with A grades being the standard we all want, “the only valid currency” as I heard the Headmaster sadly reflect, Bs and Cs are not good enough anymore it would seem (and ‘D’, did you say ‘D’? I’m so sorry). And how the Hell do you get normal, happy, perfectly able and fine children to get the As and A*s that really should be awarded to only a tiny percentage of the most naturally able? You make them work, work, work. You put the pressure on from the age of 4.  Six hours of school work at school isn’t enough, so you set homework to reinforce and consolidate everything. We can have everything we want at any moment we want it. We are the generation where every desire can be granted; pizza at 3am with one phone call, strawberries in January – so surely it is also possible that all of our children can be leaping in a line and grinning holding that slip of paper telling them they have 10A*s on results day? We can make this happen. Can’t we? We shouldn’t bloody have to. They shouldn’t bloody have to. That’s my rant. We have to find a way to bring the bar back down. NOT to be confused with lowering expectation or hope, and not to say that only the 2% of naturals should go forth and dominate – I just wish that we could find a way to allow our children some freedom from this pressure while they are growing and working out how to see themselves. Unless we can, we are sending a MASSIVE percentage of children the message that they are failing. They should be getting As and they are not. NO THEY SHOULD NOT BE GETTING As.  We cannot all be good at everything. It’s ridiculous. It invalidates the whole point of an A.  No wonder they’ve had to change to a system where GCSE will be awarded levels up to 9…you want to know why? so they can add more to the top, a level 10 / 11 …. they ran into a problem with A, A*, A** it had started to get silly.


source link If you have children who do not fit the tiny funnel of the measurement system of the UK, if you do not have a child who has naturally been blessed with the paper recording and memory skills of a Dickensian bookkeeper, you may find yourself dreading homework. The ruinination of weekends. The axe hanging over your freedom to visit your family, to go swimming, to camp out. That sodding MyMaths, the blimming physics project.

sildenafil beställa My advice? Do not stress your child out. Have the camp out. GO swimming and visit Aunty Sarah. You will never have this time again. All of us B/C/D fodder from my crap comprehensive, we’re pretty much all OK now. We survived. Please, please try to send them the message that although it’s good to try hard, it’s also good to be happy in your own skin. The one that fits you best. The one that might be made of Cs, Bs and the odd D. But does that make you a less valid person? It will probably only make you a happier, healthier person and that, surely, is the ultimate goal of parents and schools.  


If you want to hear more from Alice on parenting etc, please follow on twitter @AliceWilde5 and PLEASE like my rather lovely Facebook page Half Waving Half Drowning – I should be so delighted to have you as a reader.


136 Comments Add yours

  1. Clare says:

    Home school

    1. Yep. But have to earn the money or we all go down.

      1. Janet says:

        But you don’t have to have an A in literature to be a carpenter or plumber. And without those jobs where would we be.?

        1. James Cooper says:

          I’d much more readily live in a world without plumbers than a world without writers.

          1. anita says:

            Well have fun trying to fix your toilets with Songs of Experience ! The point of this article isn’t that we should have to chose, but rather that both should be equally respected…

          2. Aine says:

            It would be disgustingly smelly& a major health hazard without plumbers

          3. Carol says:

            No you would die of cholera

          4. Elle Horace says:

            Until Your toilet, bath, shower or sink screwed up!
            Then where would you be??

          5. Helsangels4 says:

            … until your pipes burst…

          6. Lou Chapman says:

            Aren’t you missing the point……there’s need and room for both, people who want to do both, let’s have and appreciate both please.

        2. Paul Ratan says:

          Bill Gates the richest man on the earth is a dropout from MIT . It not your score which matters in real life. Inguinity , application of knowledge, hardwork,perseverance , killer’s instinct are some of the qualities needed for success in any vocation.

    2. Donna says:

      I’ve always said don’t just give awards for straight A’s. Award for averages which increased the most because it shows most improved. Just try to be the best student possible according to your potential. Everyone is unique in their on way,& teachers & parents need to encourage this!

      1. My son’s senior school do very well on value added and they do promote that statistic – it should be the number 1 value. A mechanic is not a good mechanic if she / he can take a working car and make it work. They are good if they can get something considered to be ‘broken’ and get it to run in the most amazing way.

      2. simon says:

        The grade system is a left over from processing children to fulfil clearly defined job roles where a certain expected level of skill in very specific areas was the norm. Its 100 years out of date.

        It has value in some areas, but is woefully inadequate for many. Grades are a lazy, cheap way to make it easy for institutions to make decisions, they serve no other purpose in any meaningful way.

    3. John says:

      Oh yeah- and we should give all if them trophies for beathing and after look around and wonder why all the jobs with real incomes are taken by third world generations

      1. simon says:

        You do realise you just proved the point of the article you are disagreeing with?

        If third world countries are “taking our jobs” and they aren’t using a grade system then maybe we don’t need one to be competitive, instead reward attention and effort instead of grades like they do?

      2. MLC says:

        Its not saying that all kids deserve an award its saying they they don’t all learn equally and should feel good enough for themselves and not others.

  2. Rachel says:

    Love this. Thank you for the perspective!

    1. Thanks Rachel. It’s very important that we get perspective every now and again. I’m just grateful my children are alive, warm, fed and healthy. Anything more is just luxury!

  3. John Jory says:

    So true. I enjoyed my childhood (normal homework and then time to play with friends in the street or down the woods) and haven’t ended up that badly mainly because I was prepared to work hard, adapt, be flexible and have the support of wife and family.

  4. Catherine says:

    Thanks so much for this Alice! It actually made me cry. I couldn’t agree more. x

    1. Thanks Catherine. I’m so happy that it touched you. It’s very important to me too x

  5. Emma Marks says:

    When I was a kid the most homework I ever got in primary school was read this book, or learn this list of spellings or practice this times table.

    I’ve never been the organised, self motivated sort of person who can study and get high grades and schools should accept that not all pupils really adapt well to that ideal and get As. There’s nothing wrong with B or C grades- most of my GCSE grades were those and I was over the moon with how well I did considering I did not get on well in the school environment.

    Sadly flexibility is very difficult with the government pushing to make all kids perfect A star pupils.

    1. Me too, Emma. We had much less pressure x

      1. Carol says:

        The other thing that is wrong is that the present system not only tries to put square pegs into round holes by only valuing the academic : it also devalues the exams by constant dumbing down so the kids at A* end learn they do not need to do any work: I quote ” come on Miss, if you look at the revision guide the night before you can get an A if you have got half a brain cell”… He listened in class, did no work and got the A*. A level was then an awful shock ! AS level chemistry two years ago had 3 questions on content that used to be KS3 and the level of answer on the mark scheme would have been unacceptable to me ten years ago marking year 7 books.
        We need more rigorous exams but less pressure to pass them or even take them…not sure we need GCSE at all.

  6. Zak Jane Keir (@decadentmadamez) says:

    Very well said. I almost leapt up and punched the air when the new Head at my son’s new school gave her introductory talk to parents and, instead of the usual government sponsored crap about ‘rigour and standards’ said that the school’s priority was to make sure the kids were happy, safe and supported to be the best that they could be, and talked about caring and a kind, loving atmosphere.
    My kid is quite clever and may get an A or two, but I refuse to have him driven to his knees by hours of pointless box-ticking extra work.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Zak – head teachers saying that is SOOO important.

  7. Judith Chipps says:

    This summer, on results day, the students I was most proud of were the ones who had worked so hard to get their C grades or D grades. Maybe it’s to do with the context of the school I work at, but I still think of Cs as a fantastic achievement, and consider As/A*s as a rarity for the top few students. Perhaps what you highlight is really the difference in attitude between private schools and state schools? Or perhaps it’s a regional difference between the south of England and the rest?

    1. Leonie says:

      Disagree about private vs state. After 17 years teaching in state comprehensive I am leaving as a direct result of unrealistic expectations on both students and teachers. My state school students are nothing but cogs in the machine whilst the private school I am going to is all about nurture and valuing everyone’s skills, whatever they maybe. I thinkbibtotally depends on the slts mindset! Not finding.

    2. Carol says:

      NOt really 20-25% get A*/A so you would expect that many in a comp with average intake…not ” the few”. Grammars take the top 30% of the IQ range and thus get about 65% A / A* and very few Cs indeed , so comps should be getting 30% A*-B

  8. Phillip H. says:

    Excellent article, thank you.
    The education departments needs to hear your voice.
    Our daughter has just left school with 8 GCSE all C’s and above – achieved with 5hrs + homework every night and working most weekends.
    And the price paid for this “success” is Chronic Fatigue for the last 18 month !
    Sadly she is not alone as the schools just push, push,push relentlessly.

    1. Thanks so much for this Phillip. I wish your daughter so much luck and a bloody well earned REST!

    2. Carol says:

      Give up homework from now on…just do coursework. My offspring had ME and missed all years 9-12. only got 2 GCSEs , did NO homework, went to 20% of classes in sixth form but got three As at A level and success at top unis

  9. lelbourne says:

    Well said – thank you.

    1. And thank you for responding.

  10. Jessica Q says:

    I’m from Aruba and we have the Dutch system. But the same as you guys they are just raising the bar higher and higher. Sometimes I think is that they don’t want the kids to finish school.

    1. So much seems more challenging – I hope we can bring our children up able to deal with all the stuff ahead….. some tough times.

    2. Carol says:

      In fact that is wrong… they have lowered the bar enormously but are forcing more and more kids to try to jump it. GCSE is now simultaneously still too difficult for many but far too easy for the top 5%. It is a mistake to teach clever boys they do not need to do any work… they come unstuck later on. When 25% get A/A* it devalues an A.

  11. J says:

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s become ridiculous. Thanks for this post.

  12. Victoria Covey says:

    This resonates so much with me. Our eldest just passed 13 As and A*s at a grammar school and her 13 yr old is at a mixed comprehensive. She’s out of a different mould entirely and I desparately feel for her as learning is hard. Weekends are spend doing sodding homework that isn’t even consolidating of what’s been done already – it’s new stuff that they expect the parents to teach!! We’ve cancelled family trips because shes up to her neck with the H word at weekends and this article makes me keep things in perspective. Yes my eldest is bright but she’s anal too and too serious abt life. The youngest is funny, kind, and perceptive – and will go far just on her personality alone. Lower exam grades still mean they’re going to have a good life so time for us as a family to stop getting so het up about bloody MyMaths – and reclaim our weekends back a bit!

  13. Geoff says:

    As a solid C student through primary and secondary school – and now a VP of several Global Companies … What reference to anything meaningful are these letters ?

  14. I agree with you in that it can be very stressful to expect a child to get an A or A* but if home work is set right, i.e a test where only participation is graded and not the grade of the work then it can be a very powerful tool for spaced repetition learning which research has shown (although the grades on these tests will be bad) it will make the material stick in the long term memory and will result in a naturally higher grade final exam without the stress of cramming. Homework can also be used as a tool for flipped learning (though i would argue that flipped learning be saved until the kids are older).

    1. Flipped learning is FINE. Some great things are possible with thought, I agree Ryan.

  15. Sally says:

    Fantastic post. My daughter recently switched schools – and one of the reasons for choosing the school we did was a presentation given by the headteacher who said he was as proud of a child who attained a grade C or D when they were predicted to fail as he was of the child who got a raft of As in exams – that every child can fulfil their potential, but not everyone’s potential looks the same, or necessarily looks like a string of top exam results. I loved the idea that no child is considered a failure if they’re fulfilling THEIR potential, not someone else’s idea of what success looks like.

    1. That sounds like a great talk from the Head. I’d also feel attracted to a school like that.

  16. alex says:

    I have a couple of Ds to my name, GCSE Latin and A level Chemistry. I think at the time I considered both a failure, although the D at Chemistry allowed me (along with a couple of As) to get the UCCA points I needed for university. Grades A-C, (and I suppose now A*-C?) were considered good passes. I think you still need to resit maths and English if you get below a C at GCSE don’t you? That suggests a D isn’t good enough?

    Personally as the owner of three kids still in primary but all having varying amounts of homework, I think the issue isn’t necessarily the pressure of meeting the expected grade but rather the constant feeling of surveillance and assessment that is so pervasive in education. Boys particularly learn by making mistakes, and that sort of approach doesn’t fit well with the DoE’s approach to assessing everything. It seems to me that education is becoming more and more a case of teaching kids how to deal with tests rather than actually educating them.

    Part of the problem is the way Ofsted assesses schools and the whole league table approach. A good school to my mind is a school that nurtures the less academic to achieve the best that they can, not a school that makes it easy for the best students to get as many A*s as possible at the expense of everyone else.

    1. In total agreement Alex.

    2. Carol says:

      “at the expense of ” Why can you not do both…nurture the less able and educate the very able? The latter have rights to reach their potential too and their parents pay tax too.

  17. Jo says:

    Couldn’t agree more! My child worked so hard and achieved a perfectly respectable BCC at A level, but has been made to feel an utter failure compared to the A*/A brigade. I am now trying to support a dispirited and anxiety-filled 18 year old, with self-esteem on the floor, who I fear is sliding into depression. It is heartbreaking.

    1. That is heartbreaking Jo. BCC was and IS a bloody GOOD result. Please tell your fabulous child that I have MANY friends who got way less than that who are successful and happy and no one even cares any more about any of it.

      1. Jo says:

        Thank you Alice, I will certainly do that.

    2. Anne Rockliffe says:

      I got BCD at A level. I now have a better than average job that pays well – and so can your child – if that’s what they want. I hope they can reflect on their achievements and realise they gave their best and should be proud. As someone who recruits quite a bit now I can honestly say I pay v v little attention to A level results and would be more than happy with your child’s. It’s all about attitude for me and a hard and willing worker beat 3x A*s any day. These are well paid jobs btw not peanuts.
      Tell your child to have faith. Recognise their talents. 3A*s does not guarantee a happy life.
      Hope all goes well.

  18. Briony says:

    Great article, my son will never be a A* student and his school love to tell him that he is in the bottom set and must try harder BUT at 13 he can weld and fix cars. Not all student are gifted in examinable topics but does not mean to say they are not gifted.

    1. Briony, he sounds AMAZING. He’s going to go places. x

    2. Pam says:

      Let’s hear it for the kids welding in the driveway! One of our best investments was a house with a garage. The other was a set of welding tools. The ’67 MG that needs lot of work has yet to be proved. My daughter was built for the ambitious competitive academic environment of a private girls school. My son , I homeschooled because it was the way to go with him. College may or may not be in his future but first will be a 3,000 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail.

  19. ALAN DAVIES says:

    Our system is damaged, possibly beyond repair. Pockets of schools will have enlightened leadership and see the value of education in its broadest sense, most, unfortunately, will bow to government and local authority bullies and whip the teachers to within an inch of their lives to improve on last year’s results by 0.1%. That translates as your kid being shat on from a great height. As a teacher of over 20 years, I’ve seen the absolute horror of this programme on young minds. Time to say enough is enough. Homework has its place, but it should not be the norm where each subject has to give 2.5 tasks per fortnight, just because it’s policy! Why is it policy? Because some numbnut said it was “good practice” in an INSET session and leadership nodded sagely.

    1. Alan, I think I have been in some of those INSET sessions with you!

  20. Hilary says:

    Agree with every word.. been a teacher for 34 years and seen the value of education decline into tick boxes and targets. What do we learn about ‘life’?

    1. Thanks Hilary. You see what I see.

  21. Cameron says:

    Could not agree more, I struggled in certain areas and because I did not excel in them I did not get the right support I needed during school, albeit admittedly not being the ideal student myself.
    I came out with very little in my GCSEs that has not prevented me from working within education helping out as a consultant with apprenticeships and ultimately starting my own company.
    Children and young adults are never really made aware of the fact that little piece of paper won’t drag you down too much if you don’t allow it to and get into the right mindset with a little perseverance.
    I left very disappointed with Us, Gs, Es and Ds with my original grades thankfully I passed my gnvq which i used as a stepping stone. But ultimately where I am now and some of the things i’ve acomplished I can look back and think its not a big deal now as there are so many alternatives than the common path that is placed in front of you at school and is the norm way of progressing.

    1. And yet Cameron- you sound perfectly, wonderfully, smart and literate from here….

  22. Susan Green says:

    I love your straight talking. I have two young teenage boys and I am noticing more and more that our education system is producing stressed, unbalanced, young adults instead of well rounded, sound people. Our education system is Loveless and yet human beings respond to Love, so it is doomed from the word go. Love is what we know from birth so how are we supposed to adapt to a Loveless environment?… we become competitive, we strive to achieve, we push harder, we work, work, work.. because everything becomes about obtaining the grades but no one actually asks ‘how did you get there?’ ‘how are you feeling?’ and ‘what do you love to do?’ Keep writing Alice, it’s great to hear this and get it out in the open.

    1. Thanks Susan. Keep telling those boys that they will be OK, we need to ease this for our young people. It’s so different to what we faced.

      1. Elaine says:

        In 1970, my new high school teacher told me..”A’s are common in this school, B’s sometimes arise. C’s very unusual. Fail? Never! 😱 “Don’t aspire to be a doctor or a lawyer’s wife, aspire to BE the doctor or the lawyer. Answer? Be the best you can be. Don’t expect unrealistic results from your children. As long as they are striving to do well, that is all we can ask. Parents play a vital role, it isn’t the responsibility of the teachers.

  23. CoventryAnn says:

    With the increasing pressure on young people to achieve, simply so that a schools’s data will lead to a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding OfSTED rating, I am so glad that my three kids are out of schools, as the youngest is now 18. I always felt it was more important to have family time together than insisting they spent hours studying.
    The saddest thing for me though is I have seen this insidious drive for achievement trickle down into primary schools. I moved from secondary teaching (after 20 years) into Key Stage 2 a few years ago. Many Heads seems terrified of the inspectors and I know of kids attending extra sessions during their lunch breaks..and in the Academy we are part of discussions about booster sessions for Year 6 (before school; after school; during the Easter holidays) had me absolutely horrified. These are 10 and 11 year old children we are treating like robots.
    I need to get out of teaching.

    1. Stay Coventry Ann – the kids need people like you.

  24. julia says:

    Every child has a “Potential A” grade in them. Unfortuneately our education system is a rigid square box that does not allow all children to flourish and only teaches what a bunch of politicians, who are not teachers, thinks we ought to teach. I think, that, to address the problems highlighted in the article a first step would be to return autonomy to teachers so that they can best encourage pupils to find their niche and find their “A” grade.

    1. Carol says:

      Not true , not in academic subjects……intellectual ability is at least 60% probably 80% genetic. Half of any generation are below median intelligence Why torture kids trying to make them all be academic? Every child may have an A grade talent but for most that will not be available in a GCSE subject…no real point in GCSE anymore now the leaving age is up. What we need is well respected German standard vocational options and much more rigour in academic subjects for those who choose them….even an A* is not much above KS3 level 8 20 years ago and way below an O level grade 1… I took my O level papers (1960) into my grammar school and hardly anyone in the A level sets could do them.

  25. Holly Gatrell says:

    I have been a teacher for 16 years. And a mother for 11. I too hate hw and I hate giving detentions for not doibg it. My 4yo got hw when she started school. I hate it. If my sins school puts pressure on him for SATS I am taking him on holiday and he won’t sit them. I so disagree with all the pressure put on our children. Learning should be loved. Not a chore!

    1. Sharon says:

      My 14 yr old broke down the other night because of homework. But was so relieved when I told him that I wasn’t bothered if he got detention. I know that might sound silly & irresponsible but he was so worried about getting a detention , I said so what? I’m just fed up with homework getting in the way. It’s so pointless. They spend 6hrs at school then have to come home and do hw. It’s ridiculous. My child is only 14 & already says he’s a failure & not good at anything. It breaks my heart.

      1. Sharon, I really feel for you and for him. Try hard to stay strong and keep sending him the right messages, as you undoubtedly are, that he is good enough for you NO MATTER WHAT. x

  26. modflowers says:

    The added irony is that as you point out, with A grades being the standard we all want, “the only valid currency”, the thing the government expects everyone to strive for, they then punish the kids when they DO attain this by changing the system to make the exams harder and moaning that the system isn’t “rigorous” enough!

    1. Carol says:

      Come off it…exams are far easier these days, till Gove arrived anyway. ( I could prove it but do not want to to block up a blog with examples from 56 years learning then teaching and tutoring chemistry and physics plus teaching myself languages all my life). It is the pressure to pass them on non academic kids that is bad…I question whether they should even be doing exams at a fixed age. Exams should be for the highly academic like me, who just love doing them …

  27. Sara says:

    My eldest just started secondary and I have always said to all three of my children…try try try…if you do your homework and revise for your test we don’t mind WHAT result you get because you have done the best you can and that is amazing. They used to get pocket money for getting 10/10 in their spelling tests. Now they get pocket money for trying hard and practicing their spelling without moaning. Schools should focus more on attitude and hard work than result because by default the results follow though.

  28. Nicola Revell says:

    Ouch, need to do some serious inner thinking – feeling extremely guilty of having been engulfed into the “expect no less than A” brigade. Get exasperated with my daughter for poor exam grades – but you are so correct in all you say. So easy to follow suit and drive for those top grades while at the same time creating a horrific atmosphere at home. My daughter is at a private school and we struggle to pay the fees, so we feel that if we struggle so hard to provide the best environment for learning then there is no excuse for poor grades – in retrospect and after reading your article I really do need to completely rethink this. Thankyou for such a heartfelt article that has certainly driven home a new message to me.

    1. Nicola, don’t feel awful at all. Everything you have done for your daughter is out of your best love. It’s the best that anyone can do. You are considering what is right for her and adapting – you sound like an amazing and loving parent.

  29. Morgan says:

    I really was happy to read this story, and I am thankful for your opinion. My 14 yo son has ADD, and has never been part of the A-team, except in gym class. Most of his problem is he gave up because he is not good at test taking, and suffers terribly with reading comprehesion. He is one of the wisest kids I know (along with his 9 yo brother who is part of the A-team-he has never made a B). He is very embarrassed of his grades, and his shame is very distracting for him. He stands in his own way. I cry for him because I see the aggravation he feels when he has to read the same thing over and over and asks me please just tell the doctor to fix me. I want him to be proud of his best efforts, and not get down on his worst. Thank you for sharing this. I will approach this with inclusion and encouragement.

    1. Morgan- What a response. I suspect you’re a damn fine writer. You almost had me crying with ‘He stands in his own way’. Just wait to see what that boy will do. ADD? Attention DEFICIT disorder?? More like Attention SURFEIT disorder. Too much going on. He will find his thing. x

  30. A Nony Mouse says:

    I suspect I may be the only grandparent commenting on here, but I would just like to say that I left grammar school at 16 with 5 GCEs and 3 failures and nobody minded. There was no pressure on me from my parents or my school. I hoped not to put pressure on my 4 children, of whom 3 went to grammar schools – we still have the 11 plus in Kent – and 1 didn’t. He, as it has turned out, is the most “intellectual” and has turned into a published poet. But the pressure on my grandchildren, both at primary school, is a different matter. Not from their parents, and the school is a caring one, but from the local authority and the DoE. I would love to see a nationwide homework strike by parents. Can we start one? (By the way – I am now a successful novelist. Yah, boo and sucks.)

    1. A Nony Mouse – Great words. There is always a way if you’re passionate enough. ANd how do you know what you want to do when you’re so young anyway? I’m still not sure what I want to be.

  31. Valerie johnson says:

    My son has concentration problems. Despite this he Managed to pass 9 GCSE’s mostly C and a couple of B’s.
    He attended the local grammar school for the past 5 years.
    He is a lovely, funny and amusing boy with lot’s of social skills. When he went to collect his results in August this year. He was given a simple note that read’ Congratulations on your GCSE results, unfortunately you did not achieve the criteria to remain at the school in the Sixth form.'(5 b’s)
    Needless to say, he felt thoroughly dejected and was forced to leave all his friends to go to a sixth form college in a neighbouring town where he knew nobody.
    He is finding his feet, but most certainly is not recovering from the feeling that he has failed. He feels humiliated.Especially as he is the only one of his friendship group not to have made the grade.
    Was it all worth it? I would have to say no.

    1. What a disgusting situation. Your poor boy, having to start again. POWER to him. I hope he grows in to the happiest and most fulfilled adult. He did FINE. Really fine, and who knows what is ahead for him? Love to him and to you.

  32. clarkpanda says:

    Don’t want our kids stressed out and suicidal! Challenged the authors of reports to Government about maths in schools and asked if they had adjusted their ideas based on cultural differences… The response was: We’ve got that in the pipe line, which basically meant ‘No!’

    1. Hmmmmmm, tell us more…

  33. Craig says:

    Left high school with 1 gcse at d grade…focused more in my pratical side and did a mechanics course at college worked my way up to university and got my degree in mechanical engineering and now I’m now starting my masters degree..long story short gcses count for zip… was always told I wouldn’t get a degree let a long a nvq…look who laughing now..I say let kids be kids,it not where you start it is where you end 🙂

    1. Craig, FANTASTIC. I knew this was true. So good to hear the proper stories of success. Well blooming done you!

      1. Craig says:

        Thanks been long journey but we’ll worth it…PhD next 😂

  34. Elaine says:

    I took my exams an awful long time ago, before gcse’s came into existence. I was a top streamer but I only passed 4 o levels because I spent my time socialising with my friends. I passed 3 A levels, grades B, C and E. I went to university and packed it in before I graduated. I’m now a senior leader in the civil service and a higher rate tax payer. Life is more than A grades. Live, be happy, have friends, have fun.xx

    1. Elaine, thanks for that! I’m sorry you pay so much tax but WELL done on totally ROCKING the world of work and supporting other with that tax. 🙂

  35. K says:

    I want to agree with everything above, I really really do. I would also be ecstatically pleased if my son comes home with any C’s next year.
    But today I went to some college open days with my son and lied through my teeth about his potential 5 A-C’s so they would even talk to me about studies post 16. Colleges won’t want to take him on full stop without some basic grades over a C unless it’s on the most rubbish uninteresting course with no job prospects. It sucks that we are all involuntarily sucked in to presssurising our children to conform until they are where they need to be to not jump any further hoops, but I can’t see it changing.

    1. You just keep on letting HIM know it’s OK. I shall totally give you the green light to be ‘2 faced’!! Tell the college what they want to hear, and tell your boy the truth – that he is, and will always be GOOD ENOUGH!!

  36. Richard says:

    It does seem (in fact I think I remember a politician stating) that ‘they’ think everyone should be above average.

    Possibly a damning indictment of the way our education system works, that ‘they’ have no idea what average means …

    if A is the new average, the people who are let down are those who really are the top tiny percent – they have no way to show that they excel.

  37. Teri Spracklin says:

    Yes, yes, yes. Thank you for this. I’m a teacher in Canada and I agree completely. Allow kids to achieve where they can and be “good enough” elsewhere. I’ve shared this on my Facebook wall, and I hope it’s read by everyone!

    1. Thanks so much Teri. I appreciate the share. I hope to collect some Canadian readers. Your beautiful country getting some VERY good press in the UK at the moment.

  38. Jo says:

    I have been a teacher for 16 years – that makes me sound so old! and a parent for 7 years, I teach PE and only set homework for my exam classes when it is enriching for them – for example, watch this athletics meet and analyse 1 track athlete or something similar,

    I love teaching the students who are not naturally academic and have to try extra hard, for this reason I rarely set homework, why should I set a detention for a child who has tried so hard to complete it but made lots of mistakes, what does that teach them!! Why should they get a response which is ‘I know you have tried really hard and put a lot of thought and effort into your homework but…………..’

    It infuriates me that these students are made to feel like they are failing!

    In addition to this, my 7 year old has special needs and probably will not achieve any c or above grades and thats ok, and we tell him every day how proud we are of him for other things – amazing lego building or cooking, or when a couple of days ago he actually wrote his name on his own, not very legibly but what a bloody achievement for him! We are so lucky that the special school he goes to focuses on each individual achievement, not that mainstream schools don’t, just far more students in a class.

    We need to remember that we should be educating our youngsters to be polite, honest, hardworking, helpful etc rather than just bums on seats and getting grades, oh and don’t even get me started on progress 8!!!

  39. Sabrina says:

    My 2nd grader is struggling just to pass. She has homework every evening. We never hav time for anything. My Junior looked at her homework and says he was doing this same work in 4th grade.

    1. Sabrina, that’s so sad to hear 🙁

  40. Patricia says:

    I’m okay if my kid doesn’t get an A, but they had better be doing all their assignments. If they do all their assignments, and get a B, I’m okay with that. If they get a C, I to wonder if they tutoring or with the subject matter or there’s an issue with the teacher, if they get D’s then I definitely wonder about the teacher. I find typically that if my kids aren’t missing assignments, they do alright in school. Not always straight A’s, but I’m okay with that, as long as I know my didn’t waste opoortunities by missing an assignment. Now if a teacher can teach the subject without assigning homework, I would love that!

    1. I’d LOVE a no homework world – for under 16’s at least. Have a childhood!

  41. Amy says:

    Great article. I wasn’t the brightest of bulbs at school; I only achieved 2 A grades in the subjects that I absolutely LOVED, the rest fell into the B/C group. However, I felt that my greatest achievement was when a teacher nominated me for a Maths award for Most Improved Student because for me it validated my hard work and effort in the subject even though I hated Maths and there was no chance of me getting higher than a C. Thankfully, there are teachers out there, like yourself, who value effort and hard work over the coveted A/A* grades.

    1. I love hearing about the small things that make a huge difference to people. That one moment of being noticed and recognised has stayed with you. Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  42. Sophie says:

    I can’t thank you enough. As a junior in highschool in the US, I’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression, and am in the middle of switching medications due to it not working. And all my problems, or the majority, seem to be heavily school related. My mother linked me this post as I’ve been freaking out about school lately, breaking down crying and refusing to go, I’ve been a real brat, haha. And what is my reason for this? Not getting all As. And I believe I’m a good student, having all As my first two years. I thought that I had to be the best, or I wouldn’t get into a good college and get a good job and be successful. And I’d look at the students doing the hardest classes and getting all As and think, what’s wrong with me that I can’t be like them? Frequent thoughts running through my head would be I’m lazy, I’m stupid, I’m ugly, I’m a failure. Highschool was ruining me. I LET it ruin me. This article, this article was a bit of a breakthrough. Through support like this and my amazing mother’s encouragement, I think I’ll be ok. And trust me, ok is a godsend. Thanks. 🙂

    1. Sophie – This has absolutely blown me away. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to get the ‘ping’ on my phone today, walking through the Ashdown Forest in Autumnal England, from someone in the USA who has been touched by something I have written! I read it out to my little group and we were all beaming with happiness at hearing your words. I am so happy that you wrote to me to tell me and so damn proud of young people like yourself who are able to step aside and see what is happening to them. The pressure IS NOT YOUR FAULT and the reaction is TOTALLY understandable. You have SOOOOO much to deal with with social media too, it’s amazing and so healthy that you can see the bigger picture and you can decide now how to untangle yourself from the trap. Some of my happiest, most successful friends (in our 40s now) felt totally at odds with the high pressure academic environment BUT have managed to find things we love, passions to pursue and careers to dive into. You will too! I wish I could HIGH FIVE you from over the ocean young lady! Do some research on wellbeing and mindfulness, all the energy your body creates with anxiety WILL one day be going into something you ADORE and you will feel very calm and proud of yourself. Let me know won’t you?? Brilliant to hear form you. It’s made all the late night writing feel totally worth it.

  43. Dave says:

    Wow, this is a breath of fresh air to me, and maybe my wife but she still needs to read it.
    I don’t think I ever got an A in Hight school, Was good at most things but never an A student.
    I think I would say balanced around the c/d area and remember getting a hard time for it.
    I grew up in Ireland and the one thing we all wanted to do was leave the country.
    There was no work on the 80s so we all jumped to England or the states to get work.

    I went to the UK and the one thing that made me stand out above the rest was the fact that I was able to do just about anything (also willing) work wise I mean. I make a very comfortable living then decided to move again. The fact that I knew I could adapt to any country language or social system made the move easy for me.

    Jump forward 30 years.

    I now have two kids and am living the dream life in Europe but I am faced with the same problem most parents are having.
    How hard do we push our kids.???

    I have two very bright and cool kids but the school system is now taking its toll on them. (they speak Three languages as well)

    They are being told they have to get straight “A’s” and at 6 years old I do not think its fair for a child to have this pressure.

    I could “homeschool” them but I would not know where to start… ?
    I could tell them not to worry about the high marks and to concentrate on being a good person but what if I am wrong.?

    The school system is 100s of years old and needs to be updated across the world, we as parents need to do this, but where do we start..?

    Teachers like you can help parents like us to make a difference.

    Thanks for your rant, I have no idea how I found it but I LOVE YOU FOR IT…


    1. Thanks for this Dave. Its very important to remember that there are MANY routes to success. All of them require determination and hard work, but they do not all require 11 A* grades. And success should not be measured by salary either.

  44. Tracy says:

    My twin brother and I are in our mid thirties. I was always in the top sets at school, got A grades for A Levels and a first class degree at a good university. My brother left school at 16 with one grade C in his GCSEs and went on to do an apprenticeship. He was never really bothered with academic subjects or school in general. He turned up for his exams with no revision at all, asking me to brief him on the important points 5 minutes before entering the exam room! He now has a great job in IT and earns three times more than I do!

    1. Tracy, Do you get along well? I hope you do – it matters NOT A JOT who earns more (although I thank you for reinforcing the idea that school success is not the only prerequisite for later financial security) I have a son and a daughter and I HOPE HOPE HOPE that they will be friends into adulthood.

      1. Tracy says:

        Of course we do! We’re both happy in our jobs & have our own families now. I think it was always hard on him when we were at school, being constantly compared to his sister, but he has definitely made up for it since and I am really proud of him!

  45. Frank P. says:

    Good article, but I’m not quite sure I can relate since in my opinion and judging by my transcript, I barely graduated high school. I don’t remember the sequence of events, but I do remember my 2nd grade teacher, for whatever reason, did not like me and decided it would be best that I get left back. During that time I took some kind of tests for learning comprehension and all throughout middle school and high school, I was placed (with other students) in a classroom where I studied just the basic subjects (back then it was called LIC or what the bullies told me “Learning Is Complicated”, but I also took Art, Earth Science, Tech Ed (combination of auto, woodworking and electrical), Music and Photography/AV classes, which were in different classrooms. I never had the opportunity to study Physics, Algebra, Trigonometry, or any of the other advanced subjects. Anyway, I feel like I missed out on a lot because I was put in a different class, separated from other students, though I kinda felt safe from the ones who bullied me, ridiculed me, beat me up in the halls. It didn’t help that my Mom worked in the same school, right across from the classroom where I took those basic studies. Honestly, I don’t even remember getting A’s. For me it was mainly C’s, D’s, F’s, with the occasional B thrown in. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I wish *I* had gotten a few A’s back then, which would’ve made me feel like I accomplished something. After college (community college) it was the same thing, minus the bullies. I only sat in one class, the rest of my semesters were just me killing time, walking/driving around campus, hanging out in the student union, etc. I really didn’t want to go because of my past history, but I wanted to make my parents proud of me… at least 1 of them. When it came time to get my grades, I went down to the college with my father because I “never received them”. I was so embarrassed and humiliated when the lady told me Dad I never went to any classes. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I can go back and do it all over again, minus the learning disability or what I think I have now (ADHD).

  46. Nic says:

    Thank you so much for this grounded rant! I have two boys, 14 and 10, who are bright, sociable, sporty and happy. They get 100% for attendance, effort, manners, behaviour, thoughtfulness. Academically, they are ‘average’. And I can’t ask anymore than that because genetically, they are going to be average! I went to the local ‘don’t send your kids there’ type comprehensive and came out with a B and Cs. But I did take responsibility for my own learning and progression. I’d worked out what I needed to get onto the business course I wanted to do at college and managed to do it without neglecting my crazy family, friends and hobbies. I was a Marketing Director of a FTSE 100 company at 28 and now run my own consultancy at 44. But even I need reminding of what’s important because as you say, we get sucked into what we think society expects. My children may not come out of school with the top grades, but I’ll make sure they come out with top self-esteem. So thank you again. You’ve brightened my day.

    1. Nic, I LOVED reading your comment. You are clearly a successful and bright person. Your kids will carry that shine and sparkle that you are giving them and, in my opinion and experience, that will project them into this world in a happier and healthier was than top grades can. Well done you! and thanks so much for commenting.

      1. Nic says:

        Thank you x

  47. Di S says:

    There will always be students on the full range of grades – down to G or 1 – those of us who have done the PIXL curve this summer have seen how grades are distributed by exam boards! If the bottom mark is 95% the exam was too easy and there’s your G or 1. So even if all students achieve amazing marks, there will always be ‘failures’.

  48. Polgara says:

    Thank you for this! My attitude has always been their grade is whatever it is, as long as it’s ‘A’ for effort.
    My eldest came down with glandular fever just as her GCSEs started. She was very unwell and a lovely shade of yellow. But she went in and sat every single exam, instead of falling back on her predicted grades with a medical note – she had to sleep between exams, was dithering and it wiped her out. She got ten As. BUT, because it’s wasn’t ten A*s, there was no recognition of the effort she’d put in….endeavour should be celebrated too.
    During sixth form at the same school, I was aware that she was increasingly becoming an insomniac. I called the head of sixth form to express my concerns, only to be told ‘yes, lots of the girls suffer from insomnia during sixth form. It’s part and parcel of it’. I was (and remain!) shocked by that response. Of her friendship group who attended that school, they all now have mental health conditions to a greater or lesser extent. I’m aware of the other factors that may have contributed, but the culture of relentless pressure to attain A*s across the board was without question the dominant factor. So much for producing well rounded individuals!!

  49. Kay Smith says:

    I totally agree with your comments. I was a B/C student and my one A in Biology was hard to attain and I was over the moon with it. My son took his GCSEs this year, and got 7A*, 2A and a B and for him, anything other than an A* was not good enough. He is a mixture of being bright, but also has to work very hard to get the highest grades. His school brainwashed them to think anything less than A* was hardly worthwhile and before the results came out I said to him if he’d got 10As, that’s not a fail but he thought it would be. He has had a very boring teenage life, at his age I was out and about at youthclubs, sports, hanging out with friends, having boyfriends etc etc but he’s spent most of his studying. Now he’s doing A levels and, again, he’s aiming high. This has not come from us, but the school and his peers. He’s on a treadmill that’s very hard to stop as the universities are demanding A*A*A as a minimum on the courses he wants to do. So here we go again!

  50. Sasha says:

    Hi ya, I totally agree sweetie. I’m in my 13th year of teaching now. I totally tell all my students that they will achieve whatever they can to their best ability – no pressure.

    I always tell them that I left school with: x1 A, x5 C, x1 D, x1 F. I still went on to get A’levels and a BA Hons Degree. Anything is possible, especially today as there are so more avenues to go down. My partner left with hardly any GCSE’s. He now owns his own business.

    I always say to them that school is just a stepping stone. The first stone of many. School should be enjoyed and that’s that! Probably why I’m a bit of a nutter in the classroom…but my kids love me and that’s all that matters. If children enjoy what they do they will learn more because they want to.

  51. Zoe Robinson says:

    My daughter left school with 3c’s and 4ds in GCSEs but failed maths after two attempts, this meant school washed their hands of her and wouldn’t keep her on, college wouldn’t let her do the course she wanted as she didn’t achieve a c grade in maths. Leaving my daughter feeling a failure and her self confidence hit the floor it’s disgusting that just because you’re not an academic genius you must be fit to do nothing and made to feel worthless.
    Shame on you the education system is a complete joke!

  52. maura says:

    Hi This does not just affect children. I a mature student did a foundation ART and got a pass but could not go to U U because I did not have GCSE englsh. What has English to do with Art? I wanted to learn about printing. Now I won’t bother. So its not just children. I agree with everything you said. Children are made to feel worthless regardless how much parents tell them otherwise, when in class they know they just aren’t good enough. something has to change

  53. Chris says:

    The situation in U.S. is exactly the same. There is now a huge disconnect between what employers want (communication, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, etc.), and how our elementary and high school students are spending their time, i.e., with school work hanging over their heads 24/7. They may still be able to fit in music, sports, a job, etc., but they’re often too stressed out or tired to get full enjoyment or benefits from the experience. And it’s definitely affecting much younger children now marked by many reports of rising stress and anxiety. Parents (especially first-timers) and students desperately need this perspective. There is so much more to life than school, and when kids look back, it’s not school work that provides the fondest memories and most valuable life lessons. Admission to Harvard (or Oxford 🙂 should not be every student’s goal.

  54. Andrew says:

    It sounds like you are using the concept of an A grade as it would be applied to a curve. An A grade is typically 90%-100%, so no it should not be reserved for the elite. It should be given to the students who have earned that percentage of grade to show that level of competency. No we should not shame students for Bs and Cs, you are very correct in that. As long as they are trying their very best. What I don’t agree with is, especially in higher grades, being complacent with a D. That’s 60%-70% (these vary slightly depending on school). By allowing our children to be OK with grades like this, it’s like saying it’s OK to only give partial effort. We should teach them that even though some subject does not come easy, they should try their best and work hard.

    I get the basic concept of what you are trying to say and I agree at the core. But I still think that students need to learn the value of working hard. That the can achieve high marks when they put forth the effort. That high marks are not reserved for only the elite, but those who give the effort.

  55. NIcky says:

    I live in one of those leafy areas where subtly this really matters, if Jonty doesn’t leave school with 11A* eyebrows will be raised. Thank you.. I needed to hear this right now. I am as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in all this.. it is counter productive, 3 hours homework a night it isn’t going to make a jot of difference, it needs to stop. We need our happy child back.

  56. k homar says:

    in our day you was taught a job whether you was clever or not these days it dose not seem to matter what grades you have they refuse to set you on chose whether you are clever or not a lot of people are told they are two qualified so where do you go then, bring back the apprenticeship let the kids be happy at school and teach the jobs as they get them and if they are lucky they will get good marks ,a happy child does well at school

  57. Sarah says:

    Why would a teacher give up on so many of her students. Coming from a family of teachers and knowing the passion they have for teaching children – you find a way to help the child understand the material which suits their learning style. This is basic material. They do not all have to go on to college or become doctors but they should definitely have a basic education from teachers who appreciate an individuals personal learning traits a

  58. Sarah Miles says:

    Hi Alice and readers,

    Teaching should be the best job in the world, but after 4 years I quit and now work as an artist and sometimes a supply teacher for primary schools.

    Homework at Primary School is frustrating for everybody. The only homework that I think is acceptable is: times tables, spellings, and reading a book with mum and dad. If we must insist on homework, then it should be to do something extra curricular, like going swimming, Scouts, fishing with Grandad or whatever. You can learn so much more when you are out and having fun.

    I loved my secondary school, although some of my peers felt the pressure to get As and A*s. I don’t think I felt the pressure at school quite like my peers did, until I became a teacher myself. I don’t believe any school actually believes in only grades, it is just that the government makes it the be-all-and-end-all because they compare us to countries like China.

    Schools are so concerned about not reaching ‘the grades’, that some primary schools are cutting out creative subjects like Art and Music. As an artist and a teacher, I find this particularly frustrating. As an artist: that is degrading professions (are you calling me a failure), and also what about the child who might have been a designer, musician, decorator, or artist? Not being given the opportunity to explore his/ her creative abilities may mean he/ she never discovers what they are good at. As a teacher: What! If I have to teach Maths three times a day, no one will like Maths anymore… not even mathematicians. By the way, I love teaching Maths.

    These days the education system treats us like we are all made from the same cloth, and so if we don’t all get a high grade in the core subjects, it stands to reason why so many of us feel like we are failures and then suffer from depression.

    Teachers don’t want this. They can SEE kids are all delightfully different, and it breaks their hearts when a 7 year old puts all their effort into a core subject, achieves a whole grade lower than the rest of the class, and then that 7 year old child cries and worries for the rest of the day.

    Yes, we should all put A Grade effort into everything we do, and celebrate what we do achieve – in anything. Really, I think the only measurement one should take in life is HAPPINESS.

    So, who is more successful at life? An exhausted, stressed, ‘good to outstanding’ teacher who made an OK salary, or an artist who just about survives financially but enjoys everyday? I know who I prefer to be, even if the world doesn’t see it that way.


  59. Rebecca Ward says:

    I left school about 10 years ago, their expection were very very low for me. Due to who my family were and that i was in foster care. I was in the ‘learning difficulty’ set. At gcses i got B, merit, Cs and ds. Unfortunately maths and english and welsh which were the Ds. I was put in lower sets, with teenagers who misbehaved and/or needed extra help. My maths teacher said i was 1 mark away from getting a C. I was gutted, my school excpeted me to get E to C in everything. I always wondered whether it was same exam for all sets. I worked really hard in school, i achieve much better in most classes, which i guess set bar for my sister, she got As Bs and Cs. So proud of her. I managed to get into college because english literature and my Background. To cut long story short couple of years after college i got into University! University also had low expections no higher than a third! I was told, well i graduted with a 2:2. In my second year i got diagnosed with dyslexia. That helped extremly because i knew why i struggled to get those higher grades. If i knew in school. I may have got them. Sfter this i went art school, there was no low exceptions i just had to my best, no strain orvstress. I loved it. I did way better than any of my other education. But now due to gcses i struggled to find a job and only job, i had, didnt like that lack in confidence (this grows over time) and that i dont have good grades. My manager at the time doesnt have gcses, doesnt have a degree! So i am looking for a job again! So all i say is have Fun, stress free and get the grades you deserve! You never know you might go to university!

  60. Vicki says:

    Well said, my nephew who failed at school for several reason that I wont go into took to being a trainee plumber like a duck to water it sparked an interest and desire in him that no amount of teaching in school could. He is just 30 years old now is a partner in a plumbing business, owns two houses and about to invest in a third – with zero exam results just hard work!! We need to take a step back and think! Could not agree more with this article- brilliant.

  61. Brian says:

    I think every child should be an A student… but not with our current system. Every child should move at their own pace, and be required to master what they are working on before moving on. Yes, that will mean that there will be a huge difference in how long each child takes to complete up to 12th grade, but who cares? It’s not a race. When students get Cs and Ds, it means they aren’t learning. They feel like failures because they are being asked to do something beyond their abilities because they were pushed ahead before they mastered the earlier material. No amount of tutoring/funding will help a student who is three or four grades ahead of his/her mastery level. The solution is NOT for Cs and Ds to be acceptable. That is just a way to hide the fact that we are failing to provide the children the education they deserve.

  62. Carla says:

    Agree. C is average, B is above average and both of those are fine.

  63. Nancy says:

    I don’t care much what grade my kids bring home as long as they tried their best and are happy with the results they achieved from their efforts. I tell their teachers this every year at the beginning of the year and most of them are relieved to hear it. Life’s too short. I agree with your points.

  64. Rob Johnson says:

    I am in complete agreement regarding homeworks. I have set loads in 21 years, because of policy, but also as a way of merely getting through schemes of work set for us as teachers. I look back now and think there has to be a walk away from pushing so hard. Academia is not the be all and end all in this modern world.

  65. Steve says:

    “No wonder they’ve had to change to a system where GCSE will be awarded levels up to 9…you want to know why? so they can add more to the top, a level 10 / 11 …. they ran into a problem with A, A*, A** it had started to get silly.”

    Spinal Tap sprang instantly to mind.

  66. Joy Hasler says:

    It’s fine to get A grade but not at the expense of mental health because the young person has missed out on relaxing family life and social life, and has had too much pressure put on him/her. Homework is the thief of family time. It should be banned.

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