Judith Woods complains about GCSEs in the Telegraph:
And so, instead of carefully calibrating, then resetting the pendulum, he [Gove] swung it too far in the opposite direction and sucked the joy out of learning.
But she also says:
I paid for tutors and crammer courses. And it was worth it because she passed with a little legroom to spare …
My daughter’s lovely, dedicated maths teacher went beyond the call of duty; early morning classes, late afternoon interventions, …
But as parents we have watched our shining children reduced to tearful wrecks and depressed insomniacs over the past two years by the sheer grinding pressure and volume of work.
While I expect a lot of what she says about the GCSE shambles in the article is true, and she maybe has a point about the maths requirements for the top sixth-firm coleges, you have to think that part of the problem lies with the parents. The reason for making the exams harder is to separate out the brilliant students from the good ones, which hasn’t been happening enough in the past. But an awful lot of parents of good students are refusing to let this stop their children from getting into the brilliant category, so they push and push them to work like dogs so that they still get into the top category.
Well, it’s your family. But you can hardly then turn around and complain that Gove is the one taking the fun out of learning. If you’re the one hiring a tutor for your children then it’s you as well, isn’t it?
I’m all for the pursuit of excellence, and hard work, and pushing your boundaries, and all that malarky, and setting high expectations for your kids, but there comes a point where the pursuit of excellence becomes the degradation of life for no good reason. And it’s worse when it’s not you you’re doing it to, but your children.
The good grammar and private schools all give this advice out, because they know what happens when kids who don’t really have a natural aptitude for learning get in: “Don’t try to push your kids into an environment where they don’t belong by hiring tutors for a year or so beforehand to pass the entrance tests”, as so many parents do. That’s good advice for anyone. Push yourself by all means, but don’t ruin your life to get somewhere you then find you don’t want to be.