Almost 700,000 students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have today received their GCSE results.
With 40% of pupils expected to get five A* to C grades, an increase of 5% from last year, it is easy to assume that schools across the UK will be full of smiling faces.
However, top grades have dropped for the first time since the very first GCSE exams were sat in 1988, sparking concern over the way they have been graded. Is this really surprising given the recent media attention surrounding GCSEs and the supposed declaration that they are becoming easier? Michael Gove wanted to buck the trend of grade inflation and it appears he has succeeded.
So what effect will this have on young people? Teenagers who have worked their socks off to achieve their predicted grades will certainly be disheartened by the news. Even those who have achieved good grades may be questioning how justified their results are.
It’s not all about the grades though. Exam season is a stressful time for students, parents and teachers. My concern with the ever increasing pressure to perform well is that it can have a detrimental effect on other areas of a young person’s life. Take for example their relationships with friends. In a time where opportunities for further education and employment are harder to come by, is there an added layer of competitiveness between peers? Are relationships with family strained as expectations are raised higher?
Being able to measure subjective aspects alongside attainment is key. This is why we have developed NPC’s Well-being Measure, a tool which enables organisations to measure impact on eight aspects of well-being. It gives schools and charities working with 11-16 year olds a full picture of how happy they are.
I think it is easy to assume that good grades lead to happy faces. I think it is also safe to assume that the higher the expectation, the less smiley that face becomes.