It’s time to praise young people for their efforts

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A-level results day may be a regular fixture in the summer calendar, but so, sadly, is the ritual of hand-wringing about standards that inevitably follows.

Unfortunately, young people cannot win.

On one hand, as results continued to break records year after year, the nay-sayers were convinced that this meant exams were getting easier.

This time round, as the number of A* and A grades drops by 0.3 per cent, it’s bound – in some people’s eyes – to be a sure sign that teenagers are getting thicker, no doubt affected by the rise of the internet, texting and all the other modern plagues.

The truth is that we have no idea about comparing different generations’ achievements. And most of the evidence points to the fact that teenagers are working very hard indeed.

The education system seems to be changed on a yearly basis, or at least the preferred method of measuring it has. We’ve had the the introduction of A* grades, the concept of ‘value added’ coming and going, and many other ways of analysing results. And as the government moves towards academies and free schools, which have more leeway to plough their own curricular furrow, fragmentation will only continue.

So our message to teenagers today is to ignore the critics.

We hope you have achieved the grades you wanted and needed, and that if not you have the scope to retake. We hope that you have worked hard for successes, and that failures have taught the value of preparation and application.

But also, what those of us who took our exams in the last millennium can impart, is that ultimately it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does at the moment.

By all means, a string of As is a handy thing to have in your pocket and on your CV, but there are plenty of opportunities coming up which will have as much if not more of an influence on your future than the A-levels or BTECs you’ve done.

What you can take from them is the discipline of study, which you can apply to anything. But for now, please relax and enjoy the moment. Well done again.