Thursday, 13 August 2020

... results are in!

Confused by all the fuss over this year's 'A' level results?

Unsure why Gavin Williamson won’t countenance using predicted grades by teachers? 

Worried that the mess makes a mockery of the entire education system? 

Yes, me too. 

Here’s what little light I can shed on things. I hope it makes it just a little clearer. It won’t, however, make it any easier to bear.

Basically, teachers are the only ones who have a hope this year of accurately assessing their pupils academic performance. Scrub that; the same applies in any year. If you think our under-funded, hopelessly administered public examinations do a better job you’ve obviously never been involved in taking them or teaching to them lately. You probably voted Brexit too and we all know how well that's going... 

Public examinations, be they GCSEs, 'A' levels or even, I'd venture to suggest, degrees at a few nameless institutions are hardly worth the paper they're written on. For a start, the papers they are written on are often error strewn; they sometimes bear only the very vaguest, tangential reference (if at all) to the syllabus (which itself can be as hard to decipher as the Rosetta Stone) and they're often ‘marked’ (I used the word advisedly) by anyone the hard-pressed exam board can find, irrespective of qualifications and experience. That's if they’re actually marked at all, because exam boards pay about 0.001pence per script and are thus constantly, woefully under-prepared when all those big brown envelopes arrive. 

Actually, they don’t anymore. Exam papers are scanned and sent to markers electronically with, shall we say, some ‘interesting’ results. Suffice to say that if you think this process serves the purpose of sorting the academic wheat from the chaff you’ve more faith in it than I have. If all that wasn’t bad enough I haven’t started yet on the subject of re-marks and appeals.

So why won't the government do what the government (north of the border) did and ask teachers? Ah, because... in spite of everything, they still don't trust them. In spite of creating one of the most oppressive and capricious inspection systems, in spite of constantly reforming the exam systems (along with pretty much everything else, apart from shabby, outdated and overcrowded classrooms), in spite of paying teachers by results, in spite of taking the credit for their success while at the same time stabbing them in the back by crying 'grade inflation' every August, in spite of running the system for as long as anyone can remember, certainly as long as the current cohort have actually been attending school, in spite of all that the 'government' (if it can still accurately be thus described) still haven't got it right. Teachers are trained and inspected and continually assessed to the highest standards. (Theirs - they set 'em!) Pupils are drilled in the most absurdly detailed pseudo-fragments of a subject (fronted adverbials, anyone?) in the most Gradgrindian manner just so they can be assessed (which means, of course, keeping a beady eye on what their teacher's taught them) and yet the government still can't bring itself to say, for once, "you know, folks... you know best!"

If you can read this, thank a teacher as the old NUT car sticker used to say. And if you have been (reading, that is) thanks. 

But now, children, get out your pencils... AND WRITE TO YOUR MP!

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