Thursday was GCSE results day. By 9am various parts of the media had whipped themselves up into a collective frenzy over the news that grades were higher than ever. They exams were 'worthless', there was 'no point' to them and of course the old favourite 'they were so much harder in my day', often written by people who seem to have little knowledge of the current GCSEs apart from the odd sample question in a newspaper, usually taken from a foundation tier paper for which the highest possible mark is a C. "How can this be an A* question?" they shout. Well it isn't.
How lovely it must seem to all those students who have knuckled down and studied hard and are rightly proud of their results to hear the grown ups whining like petulant children that their work was pointless as their qualifications have no value. It is, after all, the grown ups who set the papers, not them. They just have to work hard, sit them, then stand back and take the flack.
One particular comment on the website of one of the nationals really struck a chord with me. It said, to paraphrase, that it's about time all those children who speak a second language were stopped from taking a GCSE in it. That, apparently, 'is cheating'.
Both my children speak a second language, not because we are a multilingual family but because in 2004 we decided to move to France for what we hoped would be a better quality of life. My daughter took her French GCSE this year at the age of 13. She got an A*, as we expected she would. Another parent of an A* child joked that it wasn't quite fair.
But let's look at the journey both those students took to get their A*. Her daughter learned French at school, in an environment she knew and understood and with a teacher who spoke her language. She may well have had to put in more study hours to get her A* but they were all done well within her own comfort zone.
My daughter's journey was slightly different. It involved being taken away from a school she knew and loved, from all her friends and her beloved grandparents, from the only home she'd known to another country where she knew no-one, to a house in a village that she didn't know. She was then thrown into a French school where she understood nothing, where her teacher spoke no English and where, to be honest, she was not particularly treated as a welcome addition to the class but something of a minor irritation, being as she was, unable to either speak or understand their language.
For months she sat in classes where she was unable to understand a word that was being spoken to her until gradually she started to pick up a word and a phrase here and there. By the time we left France she was fully bilingual for her age. Yes, it may have given her an advantage in her French GCSE but it was a hard won advantage. In comparison, her classmates journey to her A* was a walk in the park.
So to my daughter, and my son who took his GCSE last year (A*), I just want to say how very proud I am of you both for your results, for taking on the challenge of moving to another country head on, for all the hard work you had to put into learning a second language which you did without complaint and for not trying to have your parents committed for child abuse, which is how it must have seemed to you sometimes. You will always be my little (A) star whatever anyone else says.
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