Now, I'm no expert on this particular subject. But I find that, at times like this, it helps to look at all the possible explanations—and ask yourself which one is the most likely.
Is it most likely that Britain's young people are naturally evolving into a super-intelligent master race, with at least twice the average IQ of their typical counterparts twenty years ago?
Is it most likely that their inherent mental abilities haven't changed, but the educational system is so vastly superior to how it was back in the day—with its brilliantly high standards, passion for excellence, and highly skilled, motivated teachers—that pupils still score far higher marks in equally hard exams?
Or is it most likely that the government is blatantly juking the stats in a pathetic and cynical attempt to make our shitty education system look effective?
Personally, I just don't know. Why don't we ask professional hag Melissa Benn? According to her, grammar schools are still ruining the chances of those poor, wee comprehensive children. Luckily, she has a solution.
A document published this week, Ending Rejection at Eleven Plus [PDF], shows just how easily grammar schools could be phased out...
The paper is published by a "think"-tank called Comprehensive Future which, campaigns for "fair admissions". It is a little bit unfortunate that darling Melissa didn't have space in her article to mention that she is a member of Comprehensive Future's Steering Committee. Never mind.
Melissa's little organisation spends its time, of course, lobbying the media and politicians because, outrageously, parents keep voting for more selection—and we can't have that now, can we?
Mind you, Melissa ends her article on a paragraph which, probably unintentionally, rather sums up the whole education system. [Emphasis mine.]
The record-breaking GCSE results this year, many of them achieved at schools serving some of the most deprived areas of the country, show just what can be done within a comprehensive framework, with high expectations of all children not just a privileged few. Many of this year's high achievers would have likely failed the 11-plus.
I'm not sure that's what you meant to write, Melissa, but you are oh-so-right: many of this year's high achievers would, indeed, have failed the 11-plus.
Not that doing so would necessarily hold them back, eh, Polly...?