Sexy A-Levels are not the worst media crime today

Posted on 18/08/2011

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Image from the Sexy A-Levels blog

99% of all A-Level students are girls, according to the media

With phone hacking and riots, this has hardly been a normal ‘silly season’ for the media.

But, like Christmas ‘last day rush’ and Bank Holiday ‘getaway travel chaos’ stories, A-Level results can be relied on to fill plenty of media airtime and column inches.

In all this coverage, a recurring media crime is to use the day as an excuse to print pictures of what stereotypical news editors deem ‘fruity’ teen girls. The brilliant Sexy A-Levels blog details this phenomenon.

If this was the worst media crime today, that would be fine.

But it isn’t. There is a far worse and far more important problem with media A-Level coverage as it stands.

Let’s start with the facts:

  • There are 692,000 18 year-olds in England & Wales (51.3% male) according to ONS.
  • Just ‘around a quarter of a million students’ received their A-Levels today (BBC News).

At most just a third of each year group even achieve A-Levels.  So not only is it a minority who take A-Levels, these qualifications aren’t even the preferred route to university for many young people.

Yet one Sixth Form College principal said on Sky that A-Levels and a degree are the only way to guarantee a bright future. And this was a tone and an implication repeated in almost all media coverage over breakfast. It took until just before lunchtime before the BBC dared to feature a dissenting voice on the news channel.

But now, more than ever, nothing could be further from the truth.

As research by the Association of Accounting Technicians recently showed, over half of new graduates are unemployed or ‘under employed’, businesses are increasingly turning to Apprentice recruitment at all ages or recruiting at lower qualification levels – even in the media industry itself. And as the recent Vocational Rich List vividly showed, you don’t need a degree to succeed [client].

While I don’t doubt that the traditional route is right for some (indeed I followed that route), the media should either tone down their coverage of A-Levels – and the fruity girls – or spend even more time covering the alternatives.