As 18-year-olds across England and Wales wake up today with fuzzy heads, sprawled on friends’ floors and sofas, I’m pleased they don’t have to stomach the customary hysteria about A-level results. At last, there’s no hubbub over grade inflation, which has been halted. No admissions chaos. The summer’s yours.
We might have stumbled across a good news story here... More students gunning for maths, science and economics, record numbers of teenagers already accepted to universities. (We do take a look at the growing gender gap in our cover story today.)
Then there are the individual success stories that lift the soul. Take the sixth-form college that covers some of the most impoverished areas in Britain, Newham, whose students are tearing up generations of disadvantage with their results – 700 of this year’s 1,000 pupils will go to university, 100 of them to the Russell Group. Some are the first people in their families to go to uni.
“We gave them extra support and tuition and helped them to prepare to make applications,” said Newham’s principal, Eddie Playfair. Aspirations and confidence count, with a bit of practical help. I’ll always be indebted to my history teacher Mr Lewis, who in addition to owning the staff room’s finest moustache – a drooping number set between flourishing sideburns – cajoled me into applying to Cambridge, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol... Then he made me sit the Chaucer paper in English Literature four times: U, E, D and, finally, a B. Teachers like Mr Lewis and the staff at Newham change lives. Thank you.
PS. Thanks for bearing with me so far. That’s 50 not-out on Letters from the Editor. I’ll try to open up and hit a few shots now I’ve played myself in.