Education system divides pupils as they learn results

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The Independent Online

The class of 2001 at St Martin's comprehensive school in the Essex commuter town of Brentwood was divided in its verdict on the education system after they collected their A and AS-level results yesterday.

The class of 2001 at St Martin's comprehensive school in the Essex commuter town of Brentwood was divided in its verdict on the education system after they collected their A and AS-level results yesterday.

The "winners" were paraded by their beaming headmaster, Nigel Darby, and dutifully trumpeted the virtues of hard work and the best teachers while dismissing any talk of "grade inflation".

But a similar sized minority was smarting after tearing open exam-board envelopes to find that – as the first batch of pupils to take the new AS-levels – their grades did not meet expectations.

While the star performers in the upper sixth form stood for a school photograph, a huddle of four boys from the year below standing by the industrial-sized bins were united in their condemnation of the education system's upheaval.

"We have been the biggest guinea pigs of the lot," said James Dansey, 17, as he attempted to digest his "disappointing" grades: three Ds (in English language, IT and general studies) and a C in physics.

A year after his impressive GCSE results, which included four As and five Bs, he and his downcast classmates were convinced they were victims of an educationalist's tinkering. They were unsure whether it was by accident or design, but were agreed that it had been detrimental to have also been the first group to have sat the Standard Assessment Tests for 11-year-olds. And when dictionaries and calculators were banned in the exams, they were the first to do without.

They have also been the first to sit the AS-levels, which were devised to widen the curriculum for the lower sixth amid strong suggestions that their introduction was hurried.

Chris Morris, 17, was disappointed with his three C grades and two Ds and resented having to work "twice as hard" as his brother when he was at the same stage four years ago.

He added: "The fact that you study more subjects is a good thing but the AS-levels were designed for people to study for one year – and nobody does that any more."

There were no such concerns from the undisputed star of the day – 18-year-old James Rosindell who got five straight As at A-level. He said: "I don't agree with the grade inflation argument – I have done many past papers and on the whole they were no harder."

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