Test nuts posing in an open foyer

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Closed-circuit TV cameras have come to some exam halls in a bid to beat cheating (TES, April 11)
Closed-circuit TV cameras have come to some exam halls in a bid to beat cheating (TES, April 11). So it's out with "you may begin", and in with "lights, camera, action".

Let's hope the idea takes off - not because cameras will do much to stop cheating (anyone seriously on the fiddle will have banked most of their extra marks via coursework), but because they offer a great opportunity for schools to display some decent images in their foyers.

Here is a chance to take a break from all those quasi-corporate, soft-focus photos of school expeditions, Ed Balls' visit, the nearly triumphant netball squad. Schools can now replace those panels with a huge plasma screen offering live coverage from the examinations hall.

Parents, interview candidates and inspectors are surely bored with being greeted with modern brand imaging. Instead, schools can now display a sequel to BBC's Badger Watch. Tune in to Dodger Watch - prizes for the first visitor to spot a candidate "texting a friend", or to see an invigilator napping, or first to see a candidate engraving a discourteous comment about the examination process.

Teachers - sadly no longer able to patrol the exam hall in this age of the professional supervisor - can watch and reminisce about the old days of invigilation. Many will recall the silent sport that went on: "slow-motion tig", "first to reach the raised hand", and the like.

School entrance foyers are due an overhaul. They must lose this compulsion to go "mock-corporate". Let them offer something a little more genuine, a little rougher and tackier around the edges. As with school websites and prospectuses, school photo displays have become safe and dull. They rightly celebrate success, but fail to celebrate the many bizarre and unpredictable aspects of school life.

They need the equivalent of a punk rock rebellion. Never mind the bo**ocks - those entrances have become the soft rock Eagles - superficially pleasing but so irritatingly, misleadingly bland.

Let us shake and stir visitors. When the Dodger Watch season closes, you can display successful Duke of Edinburgh Award pupils from a neighbouring school; after all, we are all in the same education boat. And how about mugshots of former pupils who are now serving time at Her Majesty's, thus offering more "balance"? Perhaps to symbolise beyond doubt that schools have absolutely nothing to hide, they should display in the head's office an "After Carla Bruni-Sarkozy" portrait of the said head posing completely naked. This should help to break the ice at interviews.

So let's do away with the brand image. Let us portray school life in true, unedited frames. School is not an American election campaign video - it is something even more wonderful, dark and mysterious than that. And our foyer photos should celebrate this. Making an entrance, Magazine, page 6

Stephen Petty Head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire.

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