Let glam replace exam

9th June 2006 at 01:00
How wonderful it must feel to be one of those jubilant, glamorous girls lighting up a newspaper front page on A-level results day. To make it into that astral cluster of exposed midriff is surely one of the proudest of educational moments. For although the same newspaper will probably go on to inform her, in the accompanying "Record pass rate" story, that her grades are a worthless sham these days, she will always know that she has undeniably reached the very top in the one area of national assessment that has remained as rigorous as it ever used to be - front-page exam glam. No one can take that away from her.

So, before the glorious August 17, we should surely take steps this year to prevent various newspapers grousing at A-levels in the usual manner. Given that the exams are presumed to be meaningless, why bother to send them the results at all?

Instead, every school and sixth-form college can simply submit a gallery of their candidates. Editors can then get together and rank every school's departing cohort of students in an annual "looks league table". Glam would replace exam and a school's national position would be based on a mixture of "passable" rates and percentage of grade As and Bs.

A "value-added" factor might be built in, too. Many schools will claim to have an above-average proportion of gross-looking children on their hands, and it seems only fair that such places should be recognised for helping to turn things round during the child's adolescence.

It would tie in nicely with the healthy food initiative and would be just one of many fairer and more reliable aspects of the new pecking order. For once there will be no shortage of willing and fastidious markers and moderators - and all would feel suitably qualified in their work In some papers we would doubtless still have "Selective schools come out on top again" while The Sun would probably prefer to present it as "This year's corkers and porkers list". Given the gender and sexuality of the majority of the examiners it is also a pretty safe bet that "girls will outperform boys" once again.

A table of such unashamed shallowness would not be so big a step to take.

With today's shining prospectuses and swish websites most schools already realise that being good-looking is almost as important as actually being good. And given that the whole "league" system is built on sand it seems only right that the values of the beach bum should prevail.

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