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Mark of lunacy in test scores

I received the mark scheme for a sample examination paper issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to help teachers prepare pupils for the new key stage 3 national tests in English to be taken in May.

To my surprise, I noted that a pupil, who, according to the band descriptors, is able to write with "Most sentences correctly demarcated.

Some attempt to use other punctuation, such as exclamation marks, question marks" will be awarded no marks whatsoever.

The 2002 mark scheme for GCSE English states that a student who is able to use "a wider range of punctuation" (it lists: !; ?; "") has fulfilled the criterion for the award of a grade E.

Similarly, a pupil at KS3 who can show "some understanding of the purpose of a written speech" and has "some awareness of the audience" and "attempts a more formal style" will be awarded nothing at all.

However, at GCSE students will be awarded an E grade (or even potentially a C grade) for the same level of response.

The QCA, which is responsible for both exams, proudly boasts a motto of "Guarding standards". Which?

On the whole, I would rather be 16 than 14 this year! Frankly, I would rather be retiring but I have to try to understand another 20 years of this QCA-inspired lunacy!

Sorry, I've tried to use exclamation marks. Zero marks!

PJ Downie

24 Charles Avenue

Scotter, Lincolnshire

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