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More foul than fair: exams fury bubbles over

Among all the talk of statistics and grade boundaries this year, it is fascinating that not once have I noticed any discussion about actual "standards" of English, whether speaking, listening, reading or writing.

We will perhaps get on to much more productive professional discussion for shaping the future if debate eventually moves on to exactly what we as a nation expect 16-year-olds to be able to demonstrate that is "grade C or above".

There is great concern about the impact of missing out on C grades this year in terms of how young people engage with education and training. We will continue to do all we can to fight their corner and we hope to secure a just outcome. But for English departments to learn anything meaningful from this year's experiences, the debate must move on.

All stakeholders must work hard to bring a collective understanding closer. What do we expect students to be able to demonstrate in the well-established areas of English work referred to above to bless them with the magic C of affirmation? And can we say with integrity that whether 30, 50 or 70 per cent of each year's cohort demonstrate those skills to a degree commensurate with the agreed standards in speaking, listening, reading and writing, we will honour their achievement, whatever the political implications?

Michael Hartland, Former head of English.

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