14/02/2012 05:45 GMT

Maths Teacher Jonny Griffiths Tells Student: Just Enjoy Being 17

A Norfolk maths teacher has been the subject of a furore on social networking site Twitter after he told a student to "just enjoy being 17" instead of being stressed about grades.

Teacher Jonny Griffiths, a regular contributor to the Times Education Supplement (TES), recounted in the supplement a conversation he had with a student who panicked about "only just getting an A".

Griffiths's exasperated tone is clear in the copy, titled Maths - put the brakes on: "There is another student who can be just as draining. I am thinking of the driven, obsessed student, the one who is likely to worry themself [sic] into a premature grave in advance of their exams.

"'Pleased with your C3 score, Michael?' I asked.

"'No,' he said. 'I only just got an A."

Michael then whines: "I've started to cover the wall of my room with yellow Post-its."

But the mild-mannered article was met with anger on Twitter when Sam Freedman, a policy adviser to education secretary Michael Gove's policy advisers, wrote:

Disregarding the obvious light-hearted tone of the piece, "I have a sudden vision of Michael's bedroom looking like an advert for Kraft cheese slices," other critics have blamed the article for a nationwide failing of ambitious students.

Political commentator Iain Martin has now posted an article titled "What Michael Gove is up against" - all because of one 500-word piece written about a one-minute interaction.

"By the time I had read the piece by Griffiths twice I was angry," Martin writes. "Ultimately, what is so remarkable about the piece by Mr Griffiths is its smug shamelessness. He is unembarrassed, proud even, of the way he unintentionally misleads Michael about the facts of life."

One TES editor, Michael Shaw, waded in to defend the teacher saying: "The comment was clearly meant as support. He knew the pupil was going to get an A in Further Maths but was utterly wound up."

In an attempt to calm the frantic student, and, presumably to put life into perspective, Griffiths asks him: "What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or to go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?"

Which, of course, then opened the Bangor can of worms, and had one member of the Twitterati (rather dramatically) announce: "If I was studying Maths at Bangor and read this I'd kill myself."

Others on Twitter have also stepped in to wield a shield on behalf of Griffiths, including another TES editor, Gerard Kelly:

But Martin's rant did achieve one thing - a response from Griffiths himself.

The student "had got the whole process of exams out of perspective, to such an extent that his worry was seriously impairing his performance", Griffiths comments underneath Martin's piece.

"It was my professional opinion that if I could give him a jolt somehow, so he could realise life would go on whatever happened with his A-levels, then he would have a better chance of realising his potential," he continues.

Griffiths, who went to Cambridge, added: "Over the years that followed, my love of maths nrealy died. It seemed to me Cambridge cared solely about the top 10%, and neglected the rest."

And, if anyone is actually interested, Michael got his A in Maths and Further Maths and went to Warwick.

As Griffiths says, "Job done".