I am guessing that the English papers this week were full of how GCSE results have gone up for the fortieth (ish) year in a row. I can hear the calls of “the exams are too easy” from here in France. It does make me feel sad for the children who worked hard for these exams and for the teachers who have done everything they can to help them prepare.

Even last Saturday, the Telegraph was reporting that Nick Gibb (the shadow schools minister) believes that the Foundation Tier Maths GCSE was “suitable for eight year olds”. It went on to describe some of the questions – candidates were asked to read a thermometer/measure a line with a ruler/find multiples of five. How terrible – fancy asking children to be able to do something that might be practical and of use to them in real life!

Mr Gibbs, apparently, said: “It is clear evidence that GCSEs have been dumbed down.” Yes, Mr Gibbs, the Foundation paper is easier than O Levels used to be. For good reason – the Foundation Tier is for children who are aiming to get grades G-C. O Levels, if I remember correctly, went A, B, C, FAIL.

I know that some of the questions are easy, but they are not the sole questions on the paper. If the Maths paper is anything like the French and German papers were, the questions got progressively harder. By the time you reached the last questions on the Higher Paper (for getting a grade A), they were really quite tough.

I would just love for someone in power to recognise that not all children are academic; one size does not fit all. Nor does society need 100% of young people to leave school with academic qualifications. Yes, some eight year olds may be able to answer the first questions of a GCSE maths paper correctly. I am sure there are one or two out there who could get a Grade A. But as long as governments insist on pushing all 16 year olds (even 18 year olds) into a purely academic education, then there will be a need for ‘easy’ questions’ at the beginning of GCSE papers.

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