More foul than fair: exams fury bubbles over

7th September 2012 at 01:00

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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today