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Grim regime that forces up results

Students no longer see school as a challenging, mind-enhancing place, but somewhere full of pressures where individuality is often stamped out, so that everyone will achieve the targets.

Creating enthusiasm for a subject is often bypassed in favour of the push towards a higher grade.

Pupils are seldom permitted to follow their own lines of thought as there is not enough time to teach them everything they need to know and allow them to question, explore and enjoy the subject.

It would be good if people noticed, amid all the talk of falling standards, that we are now seldom permitted to follow our own lines of thought but required to stick strictly to the syllabus.

Newspapers imply a "fail" is anything below an A; for most schools it is anything less than a C. Yet I thought that, to fail an A-level, a student needed to achieve less than an E grade.

The idea that A-levels are easier now than they were in the past really is unfounded. I would defy anyone who got an A grade 40 years ago to get the same today without two years' hard work.

It is true, however, that more A grades are being awarded. But perhaps critics should look at the statistics to see how many students get A grades at their first attempt.

Students who have finished their A-levels are sad to leave school but also relieved - having been told that, at university, no one will pressurise them to finish their work. Many will look forward to this, feeling that it will be the first time they can test their own motivation.

Elizabeth Burns is an A-level student

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