In amongst the positive news about the hard working, responsible mindset of many teenagers comes a reminder of the pressures that drive that approach. A feature article in the Times Educational Supplement (07/03/15) explored the behaviours of the current generation of teenagers revealed in longitudinal research by the DfE referred to in an earlier Tipping Point blog. It showed that fewer teenagers have consumed alcohol, that the number of teenage pregnancies are at a modern low and that only 4% of teenagers have smoked cannabis. All good news.
Among the possible reasons are that modern young people are consulted with more frequently and feel a sense of contribution that comes with participation. It is also possible that this is an example of the virtuous impact of peer pressure or even that the rise of girls at every academic stage is having a settling impact on behaviour.
Underlying all of this is the strong awareness of young people of the lasting impact of education on life prospects."Nowadays, there’s a lot of pressure on the very high-achieving kids to do very well,” says Georgia Neale. "Do your best, get the best grades, get into the best college, go into the best jobs. There’s pressure to be amazing. And the bottom kids? Well, you’re going to get a D. So don’t bother.” The problem, she says, is that pupils are told in advance what their target grades are. Those aiming for a D at GCSE know that it equates to a failure: there are rumours that even a job at McDonald’s requires C grades in maths and English. (TES 07/03/15)
It is to be hoped that no school even implies that a D equates to failure as a grade in itself. If it represents that best effort of the young person concerned it is to be celebrated and deployed in a way that best serves the next stage of that person's life. The simple reality is though that young people and their parents are increasingly aware that educational achievement really counts. With that in mind no school can afford to ignore the potential of parents as partners in learning. A cohort of young people more keen to achieve than their predecessors, in an economy growing faster than any point in the last decade could represent a once in a generation opportunity to raise attainment in education.