Earlier this term, my hairdresser asked if he might pass on my phone number to a client of his. This woman was worried about her son's upcoming GCSE French exam and was looking for a bit of emergency tuition. The upshot is that Callum has been sitting at my dining table once a week as I endeavour to perform a miracle.
Heaven only knows what he has been doing in class for four and a half years but it certainly hasn't been the conjugation of even the most regular verbs.
A couple of weeks ago, he appeared with the criteria for a controlled writing assessment on "holidays". I explained to him that I could only make suggestions, so off he went to write a draft, armed with a list of vocabulary and pointers as to what he might adapt from his textbook.
This week he brought along the draft. I had been expecting to give him some advice and draw attention to mistakes, as allowed by the exam board, but I had no need - his class teacher had got there before me and corrected the entire piece with a red pen. I nearly fell off my chair.
Callum's effort was quite decent so there wasn't too much red ink. But I asked him what happened to students who handed in poor drafts. "Sir pretty much rewrites them," Callum told me, in all innocence.
The rules state that teachers are not permitted to "provide detailed specific advice on how to improve drafts" nor "intervene personally to improve the presentation or content of work".
At our school, we abide by those rules. But I now know that a neighbouring institution is cheating and will probably achieve higher grades. And do better in the league tables. Not to mention performance-related pay. What sort of message is this sending to students?
The writer is a languages teacher in south-west England Tell us what keeps you awake at night Email email@example.com
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