Please start writing now…

MOST of us have them hanging about our person somewhere, once-proud medals to some and a dusty disappointment to others. I’m talking about exam results.

Achieved, or not, at such a young age and with you for a lifetime. For some of us exams happened so long ago that the results are a little hazy. In applying for jobs while sitting on my ledge, I have struggled over the O-levels and even sometimes the A-levels (although that saving-grace Grade 1 S-level in English stays in mind).

My degree I can remember, it being an average 2:2 – or a Desmond as people now sometimes say. In truth the English literature degree should have been better, but in my days at Goldsmiths College in London, nothing counted except the final exams: no dissertation or anything, just that final exam slog. No essays contributed to your ‘score’, only those last-minute, panicky exams. In retrospect this seems unfair, but God what a long time ago it all was.

I was better at the essays that the exams, but there you go. An irony hovers here, perhaps. A man who didn’t particularly like exams now sets himself an exam most days: sit and write a blog off the top of your head; you have an hour at the very most (quicker would be better); try not to be boring; top marks will be awarded for, well, they won’t but awarded for anything at all – it’s all in the name brain engagement and amusement.

Anyway, exams.

The reason for recalling what is often best forgotten was a report yesterday on the BBC news. This said that the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is to stop using A-level grades as a way of selecting graduate recruits. The firm now believes that using grades to filter candidates could disadvantage those from poor backgrounds.

Well, what took them so long? It has long been clear to me that A-levels are a blunt device and, potentially, a block to social mobility. PwC believes its move could improve diversity and in effect open up new pastures of talent.

The firm is said to be worried that able candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds are losing out. A company spokesman said: “Our experience shows that whilst A-level assessment can indicate potential, for far too many students there are other factors that influence results.”

To which a blogger on a windy ledge replies: “Isn’t that a coded admission that too many pupils from private schools land too many of the good jobs?”

In a sense that’s what people are paying for if they can afford to privately educate their children: a push to the front of the queue. So selecting on other grounds seems both fairer and smarter.

Anyway, exams (again). I see that my self-appointed time limit has expired. I now have to lay down my pen and stop writing. Or move my laptop from the dining table as our guest will soon be needing to sit here for his breakfast. The invigilator will be along any minute to ask me to stop writing. Well, that’s one way of looking at my wife.


  1. Some people are working two jobs and sinking all of their resources into educating their kids at private schools so that they will be considered for those good jobs, whilst others are working one job and sitting in front of the telly. Just saying

  2. For me A levels opened the door to social mobility. My gran left school at 14 and my mum at 16, both getting jobs until they married and had kids. But for my generation a career was possible in part thanks to A levels which were highly regarded by employers. The exams were tough though….

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