Of course the students were well prepared for this paper - that's the teachers' job, whether they like it or not. Of course teachers made the study of Shakespeare exciting - they'd be crazy not to. Of course league tables loomed for all kinds of unsavoury reasons and it would have been irresponsible not to consider the impact of good KS3 results for this as well.
But let's be clear: my students this year engaged again with their Shakespeare text at a time quite deliberately separate from the exam period. We studied the play as it should be studied. Later, a few weeks before their test date, we crammed on the selected scenes they would respond to in the test. This was pure and simple exam preparation which had very little to do with Shakespeare and everything to do with learning the tricks of good exam performance.
There are no rewards to come from the Shakespeare tests or any other KS3 ones (and certainly not this year's English paper, where a poem rather than a non-fiction piece was set, contrary to previous papers). The rewards come from good teaching in the classroom which is interrupted rather than enhanced by these superfluous assessments.
MIKE FERGUSON, Clyst Vale Community College, Station Road, Broadclyst, Exeter, Devon