Can we compare GCSEs to the Olympic games?

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I recently heard on the radio that it is impossible that GCSE results can keep rising.

The noble lady went on to say that exams were like the Olympics and not everyone could get a medal.

Frankly the Olympic analogy is nonsense, but we haven’t got time for that. However, do we tell Olympians that standards cannot keep rising?

Do we tell Usain Bolt that his world records are the result of split-second inflation or metre deflation, that the race has got easier?

A hundred years ago the world record for the 100m sprint was 10.6 seconds.

In 1968, Jim Hart went below 10 seconds at the Mexico Olympics. In 2012 all the finishers went below 10 seconds. How has this happened? Sprinters got better!

It’s not only sprinting – every track and field record standing in 1968 has been broken.

Ever heard of the Flynn effect? Flynn noticed that ‘average’ scores of young people in intelligence tests keep going up.

Every time the tests were standardised, more people achieved average and above average scores. This has happened repeatedly with different tests and in different countries. The scientists concerned checked for bias, cheating, previous education, differing tests – everything. After exhaustive study the only conclusion is that children are getting cleverer – I’m statistically cleverer than my forefathers and my descendants will be cleverer than me.

Therefore – exam results, like world sporting records can keep improving.

My last word on the debate is this – do we really believe that every child in the country is being stretched to the limits of his or her ability in all their subjects?

Until we reach that point, when every child arrives home exhausted at the end of each school day gasping, ‘No TV for me mum, I’m off to bed,’ exam results can keep on rising – if we let them.

Adam Dare, King Richard School, Paulsgrove