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Say no to mobile phones

GCSEs loom, so here's a quick reminder of the exam boards' rules for candidates.

This is the moment when we have to tell Year 11 girls that the much-loved fluffy pink pencil case must be ditched in favour of a transparent one or -horror of horrors - a plastic bag. The boys won't be a problem - the last time they had pencil cases was Year 7.

And what should those plastic bags contain? That's easy: a black or blue ink or ballpoint pen for writing those carefully crafted answers, together with coloured pens if required for maps and diagrams. What they should certainly not contain is correcting pens or fluid. And no food either; unwrapping sweets will disturb others.

Striving to keep abreast of modern technology, exam boards require candidates to relinquish their mobile phones, personal TVstereos and any other electronic or radio communication devices. And although calculators are banned only for certain papers, the cases and their incomprehensible instruction leaflets are also prohibited. Computer spell-checkers, or dictionaries, are allowed for certain exams, but need to be checked for added extras in the form of revision notes.

So, stripped of their bags, coats and banned possessions, in march your candidates, clutching their Tesco sandwich bags. It's then that you find there's someone missing. While the exam gets underway, he's tracked down, still in bed. As long as he can get to school before the exam has been going an hour, or before it's finished if it's a shorter one, he can be let in (because candidates who want to leave an exam early have to be supervised for this length of time).

A final thought. As you while away the hours in the exam hall this summer, be prepared for the waves of regret that will wash over you as you realise that thanks to workforce remodelling this is the last time you will play How Slowly Can A Clock's Hands Move?, or that old favourite: How Many Minutes Late Will My Relief Invigilator Be?

Dena Coleman is head of Bushey Meads School, Hertfordshire

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