PastTimes Ed

19th September 2003 at 01:00
75 years September 22 1928

The School Certificate examination was planned quite rightly as an examination leading to the universities and the professions, but it is becoming a test which every boy and girl who stays at school to 16 or 17 is expected to undergo. The candidates this year must be in the neighbourhood of 60,000 and they will soon be in six figures. Schools compete with one another, and the secondary course is in danger of becoming during its last two years a system of cram, because by results in the School Certificate a school is judged. Moreover, for many boys, and a great many girls, the course is unsuitable. I believe the proper policy is not to invent new types of certificate and to pile on more examinations, but to trust the schools.

Cyril Norwood, headmaster of Harrow.

50 years September 18 1953

Educationists, perhaps from the nature of their training, indulge more than most men in the easy luxury of the broad generalisation. Indeed, a debate is more enjoyable when one is not hampered by knowledge of the facts and figures. Since schoolmasters cannot generally afford television sets (how voluptuously tempting the sweeping statement!) and since they are rarely regular viewers, their pronouncements need not be inhibited by experience.

Neither possession of a set nor knowledge of the programmes need be qualifications precedent to trying the case of television and pronouncing judgment. The common view is that television is a menace to formal education, which it hinders more than it helps.

25 years September 22 1978

Should examination results be published? Yes. Should an intelligent parent take them into account (along with all the other contextual information) in expressing his preferences in the matter of secondary schooling? Certainly.

If they are published, is there a risk that they will be used to devise a crude and misleading league table? Yes. Is this an adequate reason for withholding from parents and public information they need to have if they are to exercise their citizenly duty? No. The furore which greeted Dr Rhodes Boyson's address to the National Council for Educational Standards stirred up the hornet's nest he no doubt intended.

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