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Subjectivity clouds test results;Letter

NICHOLAS Tate makes a fair defence of national test marking as things stand (TES, July 16), but whether things should remain as they stand is debatable. For example, key stage 3 English is marked entirely in accordance with written descriptions of grades on a "best fit" basis. This leads inevitably to markers having to make judgments and, since judgments can always differ, to built-in unreliability.

The solution is to revive the idea that English, too, should contain a component of questions which require objectively right or wrong answers to act as a check on marks based on descriptions. That is not difficult to do.

Second, the complete Shakespeare play is, like the one-club golf bag, needlessly limited in the kinds of success it can aspire to. A better way of introducing Shakespeare to 12 to 14-year-olds would be to require a study of Shakespeare's life and times, of the kinds of stage he had to work with; and of some of his best speeches as they might have been staged.

That way, a more differentiated approach is possible, more pupils can be interested in Shakespeare than at present and a firm foundation is laid for key stage 4, when a complete play is uncontroversial.

Such an approach can easily be examined terminally, but, equally, it lends itself to stimulating course-work.

Dr Colin Butler, Senior English master, Borden grammar school, Sittingbourne, Kent

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