Schools should throw pupils a lifeline - not out!

Posted on: 02/09/2011

I was always a little lazy when I was a schoolgirl. I felt that there was a whole lot more to life than school work.

I therefore spent plenty of time getting myself educated at the "University of Hard Knocks" i.e. taking risks in my life away from the secure nests provided by school and home.

Of course, when I was a girl there was a lot less pressure on performance than there is nowadays. My parents were relatively relaxed; they wanted me to be happy and they wanted me to be ready to play a full part in society BUT they were not too wound up about exam results.

Times have changed.

Rightly, getting a husband is no longer the first adult life choice of most young women.

However - and it is big however - the pressure on girls to gain educational qualifications is now far too high. It is putting at risk the overall happiness of those young people who "fail" and that can't be right.

The penalities for failure are just too severe.

Take the example of one Britain's top single-sex schools, namely, St Albans High School For Girls.

St Albans "High" is recognised as one of the best schools in the UK and has produced a stream of "successful" former pupils. Woe betide you if you fail to reach the extraordinarily high academic standards the school requires.

As an example, when a girl is in Year 11, at 15 or 16 years of age, she is required to achieve 5 As or A* in her GCSE's to be allowed to stay on to complete her education.

Now bear in mind, some of these girls may have been at the school 10 or 11 years by the time they get to Year 11. They may have proven themselves to be really well rounded human beings. They may have excelled in numerous ways unconnected with exam scores. They probably have all of their friends at school with them. In short, the school is the hub of their young lives. BUT IF THEY DON'T GET AT LEAST 5 A or A* GRADES, THEY ARE THROWN OUT!

Some girls in the last couple of years have been ejected from the school, despite having achieved 4 A's and several B's. A number of these girls have been excellent role models for younger pupils at the school and have behaved faultlessly -YET STILL THEY HAVE BEEN THROWN OUT.

I know that this harsh policy has ruined some young peoples lives. They have been DEVASTED.

Rigid requirements to achieve precise exam scores are simply not equitable. There has to be room for flexibility, for discretion to be exercised. If a school runs away from exercising more subtle judgements than can be found in exam results, it is running away to the detriment of the pupils.

Of course, it is not only St Albans High that treats young people in this completely unacceptable manner - other schools are equally brutal. But you have to start somewhere, so let's start with St Albans High.

I call on ALL parents of girls in Year 11 to tell the school Governors that they will remove their children from the school if this inhumane policy is maintained. Let's hope this set of parents have the courage to force St Albans High to change.


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