Were my class of ’96 all dunces?

PUBLISHED: 11:31 28 August 2008 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 May 2010

I CAN T help but think that GCSEs and A-levels are getting easier. Every year the media has a field day in suggesting exams are getting easier, with the overall pass rates increasing year on year. I ve resisted the temptation to agree, until now. Ringing

I CAN'T help but think that GCSEs and A-levels are getting easier.

Every year the media has a field day in suggesting exams are getting easier, with the overall pass rates increasing year on year. I've resisted the temptation to agree, until now.

Ringing around all the schools in Comet country to find out how students had done this year, I and my colleagues were amazed at how many pupils had achieved A*s and As.

When I took my GCSEs some 12 years ago, an A* was a rarity and anyone who managed to get one was admired and rightly revered. Now it seems A*s are becoming increasingly common, and that makes me somewhat suspicious.

It's not my intention to take anything away from the students who have clearly worked hard to get great results, but I find it difficult to believe that my class of '96 was so much less intelligent than the students of today.

I don't doubt that teachers and students have better access to resources these days, but this can't solely account for the steady increase in good results over the years.

One teacher The Comet spoke to suggested the reason for the excellent results is because studying is considered more socially acceptable today, and those who swot are not tormented and teased for being boffins. But I'm not convinced this is the reason.

I went to a private school with a large percentage of so-called 'boffins' but the A*s and As were still not as forthcoming as they are today. At St Francis College in Letchworth GC the overall pass rate at A* and A was 68 per cent this year.

Perhaps, purely as an experiment, students could be given past papers from a decade ago to see how they fare. If they manage to secure as many A*s and As it could silence the media and other sceptics who continue to ask each summer if exams are getting easier.

But if the students struggle it will surely prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that exams are not as hard as they used to be.

MUCH to my own surprise, I've been hooked by this year's Big Brother.

In previous year's I've shown little interest and rarely watched it, but this time around it has me gripped with a somewhat morbid curiosity.

In last week's Last Word, I wrote of my concern for youngsters who have the likes of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty as role models. Well it appears there is an endless supply of bad role models in the Big Brother house, and couple Rex and Nicole are by far the worst.

They both make my blood boil with their endless sniping, whingeing and general nastiness aimed at their house mates as well as each other.

Frankly I can't see why they stay together, when they argue constantly and she thinks he's a serial cheat, but I'm guessing it's because no one else will have them.

With their behaviour this week, they really surpassed themselves.

Set a task of re-enacting the video to Michael Jackson's iconic Thriller, Rex and Nicole were adamant blind Mikey would not be capable of such a thing and immediately set about trying to tell Big Brother to exclude him from the dance group.

How dare they make such an insulting assumption, particularly when Mikey deemed himself perfectly capable? No matter how much they tried to fake consideration and empathy for him in the diary room, they both came across as patronising prats and Mikey said they are stereotypical of the prejudice he has had to deal with since he went blind.

I hope no youngster aspires to be like Nicole - a negative, whingeing airhead who stays with a man she believes has slept with a stripper, and who is so high-maintenance she cried incessantly when she was deprived of her belongings for a few days.

As for Rex, I hope youngsters will see him for the puffed up, arrogant plonker he really is. His daddy may have money, but money can't buy you manners, a good attitude, or a likeable personality

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