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A 'Best of' Love-Hounds Collection


E1 - History of Kate Bush




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Date: Wed, 30 Oct 85 22:51:11 est
From: Henry Chai <chai%utflis%toronto.csnet@CSNET-RELAY.ARPA>
Subject: O-levels

Someone asked what an O-level is; I haven't seen a reply so I'll give one -- trust that I know coz I've got a few of them (including music!) and a couple'a A-levels as well!

The U of London gives a (yearly?) public exam called the General Certificate of Education Exam (GCE), of which there are the ordinary level (O) and advanced level (A), on a host of academic subjects including math, chemistry, economics, art, french etc etc. The O-level corresponds roughly to grades 10-11 in North America, and the A-level grades 12-13. To get into university in the UK (or most U's in the world, as a matter of fact) you need (at least) 2 A's and 3 O's. (and that's how many I have.) (no no, I didn't take it in the UK but in Hong Kong where I'm from)

-- Henry


From: Geoff Clare <mcvax!root.co.uk!gwc@uunet.UU.NET>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 88 15:08:33 GMT
Subject: 10 "O"-levels

In his ridiculously huge article IED comments:

> In fact, Kate earned no fewer than 10 "O"-levels, which is an exceptionally good performance.

I think IED's (lack of) knowledge of the British education system may be letting him down here. In the British Grammar schools of Kate's school-days a significant proportion of pupils would pass 9 or 10 `O' levels. It was common to take Maths or English (or both) a year early, then the usual 8 `O' levels in the final year (including an "Alternative" `O' level in the subject(s) already passed). So Kate may have 2 Maths and 2 English `O' levels and 6 in other subjects.

Without knowing the grades Kate obtained it is impossible to judge whether her results were indeed "exceptional" (IMHO 6 or more A grades out of the 10 would merit this description) or just "reasonably good" (a lot of C grades - the lowest "pass" grade).

I have no wish to denigrate Kate's academic achievements, but IED's comment might lead some readers to believe she is some kind of super-genius in other areas beside her truly "exceptional" musical talents. I doubt if this is the case.

IED, where did you find out Kate has 10 `O' levels? And do you know her grades? If so, please enlighten us further.


From: Doug Alan <nessus@ATHENA.MIT.EDU>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 88 11:42:33 EST
Subject: Kate's grades

I'm not an expert in the British educational system, either, but I do know that Kate left school at the age of 16 to pursue her music career. I've been led to believe that this number of O-levels at this age is at least a bit unusual, if not an indisputable sign of genius. I don't think anyone has maintained that Kate was a genius student --just a very competant one, which is also unusual for Rock Stars.


...Then again, one of the guys in Queen has a PhD in astrophysics...


Date: Wed, 30 Nov 88 12:59 PST
Subject: O' levels

> I think IED's (lack of) knowledge of the British education system may be letting him down here. In the British Grammar schools of Kate's school-days a significant proportion of pupils would pass 9 or 10 `O' levels.

IED hastens to admit that he is completely ignorant (or was before reading your much-appreciated posting, Geoff) about English school exams. But let him explain what he meant. First, the information that Kate "received 10 'O'-levels" comes from Kate herself, on a British TV interview. Naturally, she did not volunteer this information, but was more or less forced to tell how many by her interviewer, who was pretty nosy. Kate would never brag.

Secondly, IED assumed that the number "10" was a sign of "exceptional" achievement for two reasons: first, the interviewer (a Brit) went "Ooh!" and looked visibly impressed; and second, Peter FitzGerald-Morris of Homeground has also said that Kate's "O"-level performance was extremely good.

But IED doesn't doubt the accuracy of your report. Perhaps the reason for this conflict of information is that Kate left school before ever taking her final year. In other words, she took all of her "O"s a year before most people would have taken more than two--according to your own report as IED understood it. Now, even if her grades on those exams weren't particularly high, wouldn't such an early completion of 10 "O"s be pretty exceptional?

If not, IED would like to know, so he can emend his statement in the chronology. And thanks again for all your info.

-- Andrew Marvick


Date: Fri, 09 Dec 88 11:09 PST
Subject: Kate's 'O'-level

Since the subject has come up in Love-Hounds, IED has taken the liberty of reproducing a recent exchange of letters between Geoff and IED concerning Kate's secondary education. Many thanks to both Geoff and Neil for their explanations--especially Geoff, for his patience.

-- Andrew Marvick


From: IED

Perhaps the reason for this conflict of information is that Kate left school before ever taking her final year. In other words, she took all of her "O"s a year before most people would have taken more than two--according to your own report as IED understood it. Now, even if her grades on those exams weren't particularly high, wouldn't such an early completion of 10 "O"s be pretty exceptional?


From: Geoff Clare

Wow! Amazing! (Translation: Yes, that is exceptional)


From: Andrew Marvick

I'm happy to learn that the O-level business wasn't an exaggeration of Kate's achievement, though one can look at it either way. After all, she did leave school before ever taking her 'A'-levels, which would have been a wise thing to do just for general living purposes, no? By the way, she returned to school during the summer before the last year (the year she skipped) in order to take "mock-'A'-levels". Unfortunately, no one has ever divulged what her scores were in any of these exams (not, of course, that it's any of my business!)

-- Andy


From: Geoff Clare

This doesn't sound right at all. "Mocks" were taken in February/March in preparation for the real exams in June. Also 'A'-levels were taken two years after 'O'-levels, whereas "the summer before the year she skipped" would be immediately after she took her 'O'-levels. There's nothing I can think of that she might have gone back for at that time. Is this from an interview with Kate or just a bit of hearsay?

-- Geoff.


From: Andrew Marvick

Oh, it's not hearsay. As a matter of fact, I just watched the interview again last night. It's from the 1980 programme Nationwide (BBC). Kate is being interviewed, and explains that she had originally thought of becoming a veterinarian or psychiatrist, and so had gone through the motions.

"I got some 'O'-levels, and--"

Oh? How many?

"(With evident embarassment)...Ten..."

(With obvious surprise and respect) Ten! Did you take your 'A'-levels?

"Well, I took my 'mock-A's..."

I don't remember where the earliest source is about Kate's leaving before the "last" year of secondary school, but I've read it in three or four different places. I'm pretty sure it's been admitted to by Kate herself in a number of places. It's implied in the letter to Frances Byrne that appeared in the new Juby book. She entered the first form in 1969, and left in 1975, I believe--that would have been the sixth form. Is that the last of your school-years, or isn't there a seventh?

Given these bits of information, can you come up with a likely chronology for me? I'd really like to understand this better. Thanks for your interest, Geoff.

-- Andy


From: Geoff Clare

Ah, now the picture is getting much clearer - the dates give it all away. First a little background.

Secondary school consists of five years, normally from age 11 to 16. It is possible to leave before completing the five years, once the age of 16 has been reached. 'O'-levels were normally taken at the end of the fifth year (one or two might be taken in the fourth as I said before), after which the student could continue to "sixth form" to study for 'A'-levels. The "sixth form" is considered separate from "secondary school" (it can equally well be part of the same school or a separate "sixth form college") and actually consists of two years -"lower sixth" and "upper sixth".

(Apologies for the strange mixture of tenses here - this is because 'O'-levels have now been replaced by the GCSE, so I have to refer to them in the past tense, whereas the other information is still true, necessitating the present tense).

So now it becomes clear that Kate dropped out of the sixth form, as opposed to "before the last year of secondary school" which really means before the fifth form. She stayed long enough to take her mock 'A'-levels, but left before taking the real ones.

Which brings us back to square one - she probably took one or two 'O'-levels in the fourth form and the remainder of the 10 in the fifth form, just like a large number of people at the same school and similar schools all over the country. So I'm afraid my original comment still stands: I doubt if Kate's 'O'-level results qualify as "exceptional". Now if we could just find out her grades ....

-- Geoff.


From: IED

Thanks for all the clarifying information, Geoff. I'm sure you've hit on the explanation. My only reason for not being absolutely convinced is the attitude that the British interviewer--as well as Kate's visible sign of embarassment, apparently at the high number of 'O's--at the number '10'. They both seemed to agree that it was somehow exceptional. Could it all have been harder in 1973-4 than it is now? Or were Kate and the interviewer simply deceiving themselves into thinking it was more impressive than it really was?

I promise this is the last time I'll bother you about this nonsense, but it is interesting. I didn't know anything about the sixth vs. fifth forms, etc.

-- Andy


From: Geoff Clare

It seems to me that our difference of opinion arises purely from the use of the word "exceptional". I'm not saying 10 'O'-levels isn't an achievment worthy of the interviewer's evident respect - I just think calling it "exceptional" is a bit over the top.

Perhaps some ball-park figures will help illustrate what I mean. For something to be called "exceptional" I would say it might occur with a frequency no higher than, say, 1 in 1000. Judging from the results at my school and the relative numbers of that type of school ("Grammar") to the other types ("Secondary Modern" and "Comprehensive"), I would estimate the number of people with 10 'O'-levels lies around the 1 in 50 mark. If you still want to call that "exceptional" I won't argue, but I would only call it "extremely good" or "well above average".

Educational standards have certainly changed in this country over the last few decades, but they wouldn't have changed much in the short time between 1974 and 1980.

-- Geoff


From: nbc%INF.RL.AC.UK@mitvma.mit.edu
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 90 14:42:45 BST
Subject: British Education system

A "form" is merely a class or year (i.e. group of children of c. the same age) within the school. So it could be form 1, form 2 etc. or form A form B etc representing different classes or age groups throughout the school. In Kate's case it refers to her Secondary School (sometimes known as High Schools) though Primary Schools can be divided into forms as well. Some schools, like mine, confused the issue by starting with the 2nd form and continuing: 3rd, 4th, Removes, 5th, Lower 6th and Upper 6th (pretentious, moi?).

O Levels are Ordinary Level GCE Exams (General Certificate of Education) and A Levels are Advanced Level GCE Exams. The former where taken at the age of c. 16 and the latter at c. 18 and it was the results of these which usually determined whether you could go on to read a subject at university. There are probably new variations on this theme these days. 10 O Levels is good though it really depends on the grades Kate got and what the subjects are. You could do O Levels in Art, RI, Cooking, Woodwork etc (no offence intended :-) ).

Be seeing you, Neil


From: ee8kh@gdt.bath.ac.uk (K House)
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 1991 22:09:20 GMT
Subject: Re: 0 levels????

'O' levels or ordinary levels are exams taken by many schoolchildren at the age of 16 (or thereabouts). Asking the half a dozen or so people sat around me, the general concensus is that only approximately 20% of children succeed in getting any O levels at all. The average 'A level' student (i.e. ages 17-18) has to first pass five or more 'O levels'. Three (usually) A levels are required for entry to University (aprrox 1% of population get to this). By this scale, if Kate does indeed have 10 O levels that puts her in the top percent or two based on exam performance. She clearly could have gone on to A levels and presumably from there to University. Luckily for us she had something else to do :-) (BTW, O levels no longer exist, they have been replaced by GCSE's, but I won't go into that).

Hope this explains it.



From: ***SEMPSY*** <sre017%cck.cov.ac.uk@mitvma.mit.edu>
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1991 05:45:03 -0800
Subject: O LEVELS !!

I think I will settle this once and for all:

O-Levels are taken at 16 in State and Public Schools in England. 8 are the usual maximum at state schools, and 10 at public schools (ie Kate). Therefore if your family has money your more likely to get more. O-Levels are graded A to E, grades D and E are regarded as failures. Generally E (30-40%), D (40-50%), C (50-65%), B (65-75%), A (75%-->) CSE's are the alternate exams , they are graded 1 to 6, where 1 equates to a grade C at O-Level, 2 to grade D, 3 to grade E, 4, 5, 6 as ungraded O-Level. For interest CSE grade 4 is the national average grade obtained, so Kate is well above your Mr/Miss average.

Unfortunately the O-Level was phased out after 1987, my year were the last to do O-Levels ( I managed 9 O-Levels myself).

It has now been replaced by the GCSE exam which is a combination of the O-Level and the CSE, it is generally regarded as inferior to the former exams. At 18 usually A-Levels are taken, you need these to get into Polytechnic and University. It is 2 for Poly and 3 for Uni. They usually will ask that you have at least 5 subjects covered by both O-Level and A-Level. For example 3 O-Levels in French, English, Physics and 2 A-levels in Maths and Chemistry ( they usually expect that you passed these at O-Level as well) could get you onto a Maths Degree at a Polytechnic, an extra A-Level could get you into Uni. Obviously the quality of your grades are important, you would need 3 grade A's at A-Level in the right subjects to be even considered for Medical school.

I hope this settles any queries about the education system in the UK, by the way Scott was right that Scotland does a different exam to the O-Level. O-Levels were only done in England and Wales. Andy Semple


Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1991 06:38:38 -0800
From: fingerle@NADC. NADC. NAVY. MIL (J. Fingerle)
Subject: Kate's intelligence (measurable)

I was just talking to an RAF exchange officer stationed at the Navy facility where I work. He is a Kate fan and said it is fairly common knowledge in the UK that "Kate is rather clever" and that she passed "four A-levels. "

In the recent thread concerning this, I believe that this was not mentioned. We had only discussed Kate having passed her 10 O-levels. So I put it to you people, is this true? Anyone know for sure?


Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1991 09:41:26 -0800
From: nrc@cbema. att. com (Neal R Caldwell, Ii)
Subject: Re: Kate's intelligence (measurable)

According to an interview in the "Kate Bush On Tour" show (recently posted by Ron, thanks Ron). Kate got 10 O-levels and took her "mock A's" before leaving school but never got any regular A-levels.

I assume that "mock A's" are some sort of practice exam taken to prepare for the regular A-levels. Whether it could be said that she got four of these "mock A's" I don't know.

Considering that she had thought of becoming a vet or a phyciatrist it would make sense (from what our international correspondents have told us) that she would take a large number of Os and then prepare for her A-levels with about four "mock As".

Strange thought. Another time. Another place. Kate (or is it Cathy) Bush sits quietly completing her O-Level exam. Does she have the faintest idea that fifteen years later devout fans all over the world will be talking about how well she did?

Was Rod Serling standing in the room at the time?

<theme music. . . fade out>


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1991 12:55:00 -0800
From: IED0DXM%MVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU@mitvma.mit.edu
Subject: O-levels

By the way, Kate never said any such thing about passing 4 A-Levels, or any A-levels at all. She did pass 10 O-levels, and that's all. She also took her "mock A-level exams", for which she returned to school for a day, after having dropped out. That's all any of us know. IED was under the impression that merely "passing" O-levels doesn't really indicate the braininess of the student--that it also matters what the individual scores were for each exam. Is that not so? On the other hand, passing 10 is unusual enough to indicate superior academic potential.

Obviously, IED does not agree that discussion of Kate Bush's school history is irrelevant or uninteresting, nor does he think the subject has yet been exhausted, since we have not yet arrived at the facts. It's all a part of The Whole Story.

-- Andrew Marvick, who wants to be a scholar, but he really can't be bothered...

On to Kate's cat Pyewackett

written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Wieland Willker
Sept 1995 June 1996