Thursday, 8 September 2011

Success! But what about the failure?

Council House, Nottingham
There's a large banner strung across the front of the Council House in Nottingham, which in case you can't read the picture says, "Congratulations to all pupils, teachers, schools, governors, parents and carers on Nottingham's best ever SAT's, GCSE and A-Level exam results". Of course, we all agree with that.
The banner exemplifies the pride in the city, that has also been shown in the local press and television. But while rejoicing with those who have achieved what they wanted to achieve, is anyone sparing a thought for those who have failed their exams, and are wondering what the future holds? Now I've never liked the word 'fail', preferring to use 'set back' instead. Some will feel that this is mere semantics, and they may well be right, but certain words do come with connotations. The word 'fail' gives an impression of negativity and finality, while 'set back' says, 'you've taken a knock, but there's hope'.

I failed my 11-plus, which was devastating at the time, and I remember a fellow class mate who also failed, being so distraught, that he locked himself in the school toilets, and wouldn't come out for hours. A few words of public commiserations for those who have failed would not go amiss. There will be many feeling like my class mate, and wondering what now? I could talk about failing at SAT's or GCSE, but I'm particularly thinking of those who sat A-Levels.

For years there has been this insane drive to encourage more and more people to attend University. It has been akin to the insane drive for home ownership over the last thirty years, and the subsequent sale of council houses, leaving nothing but the vagaries of the private housing sector for those in need. (Get back on track John). Some will have sat A-Levels and got nothing; others will have sat them and not achieved high enough grades. Both will feel that the door to University is closed to them. They have failed. If society sees success as getting to University, and not getting there as failure, then society has a lot to answer for in the destruction of dreams, and the blighting of lives.

I never went to University, and there does seem to be an awful lot of them. There has to be huge differences in what they provide, and the quality of the degree that students come away with.

All I know is that getting a degree is no guarantee of a chosen career in the future. Graduates are stacking supermarket shelves or serving in fast food outlets. Those that come out of University with a degree in subjects that matter to employers probably fare a little better.

So to those who haven't succeeded in their A-Levels to allow them to go to University, there is still a life of hope. They may be made to feel second class because of all the hype, but there are opportunities to explore that may bring greater future rewards. I have to question also the sense of incurring huge debt - which will be even bigger next year - to get a degree that may well be next to worthless in enabling graduates to get a career. By the way, this is not an anti-university rant, as I'm very well aware of the benefits attached to certain University studies. I just want to show that getting to University is not the be-all and end-all of everything, and that not getting there is not the end of everything.

There are many fine Occupational courses at local colleges that provide a decent education and qualification at the end of it. I've known a number of people over the years who have gone down this route, and ended up with better paid jobs than their graduate counterparts. Apprenticeships are all the rage again, and the benefit is that you get paid while you are learning a profession. Though there is no guarantee of permanent work even if you go down these routes, they at least give hope. The ones I really feel sorry for are those living under parental expectation. There's a long tradition of University education in the family, and you're the only one to 'fail'. Unfortunately there are some horror stories of children being made to feel like 'black sheep', but everyone isn't the same. Some are perfectly intelligent, but are happiest working with their hands. The country would be in a poor condition if there weren't people like this, and this isn't failure.

Around the city centre there are these banners advertising a jobs fair on the 22nd September. I'm all for promoting job vacancies in every way possible.

The banners say that there are 100's of jobs available, but unfortunately there are 1000's of people looking for them. So employers will have choice, which is great for them, but this cherry-picking will leave far too many disappointed and still without work.

In a capitalist society, that's how it will always be.  But there are chances out there for those with determination; who can show that they have something to offer. Not getting exam results is not the end; it may just mean a rethink, that could just turn out for the best.

Yes, I know that I'm putting a positive spin on this, but that's what those who've been told they've failed need. I'm really pleased for those who've got what they wanted, but my thoughts are with the rest. There is much written about education, and I leave you to ponder the words of Oscar Wilde,

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught".

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! I have a list of blogs that I intend to write and many of the points that you raise here are included. Once again, John, great minds think alike. I shall have to get blogging!