This week, as round about the same time in every year, I was interested to see the publication of the A Level results. Congratulations must go of course to the 27% who scored a grade A, and especially to the one in twelve who scored the new A*. I daresay the record numbers will once again fuel the debate over whether A Levels are "easier" than they used to be. I spotted, tucked away towards the bottom of the article, a table showing that when I took mine back in 1966, I was one of around only just over 8% of pupils to get a Grade A for two of mine - a figure which looks as if it remained fairly constant for the next two decades before starting to climb steadily. There's now a huge range of subjects offered at A level - some traditional and some more 'esoteric' - compared to the academic ones in my day, for which a decent grade of O level pass was usually required before you could even start the course.
All that is small consolation for the significant numbers of students who have so far been unable to secure a university place. The pressure in that area seems to be there every bit as much ever, going to university still being the 'ultimate goal' to follow on from a successful education at school just as it used to be. And so off I went, at the age of 17, with high hopes and aspirations for the future. Fate decided otherwise, however, and after only two terms I dropped out - one of apparently around 15% of students to do so, I found out later. I've always felt guilty about it: whichever way you slice it, it was a wasted opportunity and nowadays there are a whole number of different alternative courses and other options which might've saved the day. Perhaps rather bizarrely it's something I've always avoided revealing to anybody, and I think this is only the second time I've actually written about it.
But of course life doesn't always turn out the way you plan it, and while I've often wondered idly over the years what would have become of me had I pursued the idea of becoming a linguist, or *shudders* a teacher, I don't feel I've done too badly. I've survived to tell the tale, anyway!