Natalie Haynes: Don't tell us we're bright if it's not true

The thing is...

Share

The thing is that when you sit an exam, you should know that it's your work that will decide your grade and not the work of the other kids in your school. But this week AQA, the biggest exam board in the country, has revealed plans to rank A-level students on the basis of which school they attended and how well the other students in that school did in their exams.

On paper, this might seem like a good idea: a brilliant but badly-taught child from a school in which most children struggle to get any qualifications at all won't be penalised for having lower grades than a child who swanned into Eton and whose only distraction from homework was the constant presence of other CV-boosting opportunities to act in plays and join the orchestra.

In practice, however, it looks rather like a strange form of defeatist communism. No one would choose to have the value of their work dictated by the value placed on other people's work. Or indeed by the value placed on the school to which your parents chose to send you, when you were too busy being 10 to contribute to a life-changing decision.

We wouldn't give people driving licences if they were a bit ropey on the details of slowing down at junctions and not steaming along at 100mph, but were far better than anyone else coming through that driving school. Why should university be different?

Critics of the plan have already derided it as clumsy social engineering. But social engineering is no bad thing. Far better to engineer the life chances of children born to parents with no qualifications than decree that a life of low-paid menial work is all they deserve because they're no better than they should be.

What's really depressing about this whole idea is that no one seems to think it might be possible to begin that social engineering at a younger age, when children are, say, four or five. And that maybe if all schools were good, or at least not dreadful, no one would need special consideration for having survived a rotten one.

So perhaps we could re-focus our Dadaist public-spending priorities (aircraft carriers for non-existent aircraft being only the most overt example) and aim for an education system in which all children have a chance to do objectively well at school, rather than relatively well.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence