I invite you to look at these two headlines from this week and see if, perchance, they may be related:

PUPILS who achieve a B in A-Level maths today would have flunked with an E in the 1960s, according to new research.

Researchers looking at exam papers from the 1960s, 1990s and 2010s found scoring a grade B in the 2010s was equivalent to a lowly E 50 years ago. (The Sun, 23 Feb 2016)

English children are among the unhappiest in the world, a wide-ranging study has revealed. 

Young people in England are ranked nearly bottom of an international happiness table, coming 13th of 16 countries. (The Independent, 17 Feb 2016)

How wonderful for students currently working hard on their A level courses to have their efforts denigrated as ‘lowly’ and ‘flunking’; how good for their self-esteem to be battered yet again by the redundant, ‘haven’t standards slipped’ arguments!

When will we recognise that comparing standards of individual subjects across decades is futile and de-contextualised? The fact that this debate never goes away, in my view, simply demonstrates how wrong we are to focus entirely on exam grades as a measure of learning and educational success. But, as long as we continue to do so, our children will continue to be ‘amongst the unhappiest in the world.’

You can probably tell that I’m cross. As ever, I welcome any comments.