GCSE Tactics: Stick or Twist

Too much gambling with high-stakes qualifications.
Too much gambling with high-stakes qualifications.

The lack of coordination between OfQual and DFE in relation to exams reform is so frustrating. Two major mid-stream announcements have put lots of schools in a difficult position, essentially having to decide between their students’ individual exam successes or the school’s overall performance. We’re reducing exam preparation to a matter of tactics rather than teaching, learning and assessment.

My daughter is one of many thousands of students who will now be caught up in the maelstrom.

Her school has opted to enter all Y11s for English Language in November because they did their Speaking and Listening assessments in Y10 and it’s the last chance for them to count. However, the premise was that it was a no-risk decision because students who did not deliver their target grades could resit in June. Now that has changed.

Well, actually, it hasn’t changed for the students. If they need another go in June, they can take it again. But, for the school’s performance measures, it’s now a question of making a tactical decision: stick to November, to use the S&L or go for June and teach them all for longer.

It’s a right old mess. In truth, I wish they hadn’t ever switched to the November sitting…it’s always struck me as foolish to make tactical decisions of this kind in a hurry. But now, as a parent, I want the school to stick with November…but not because I feel the speaking and listening will make much difference. In my daughter’s case I think her Controlled Assessment and exam performance are more or less aligned..with or without S&L, she’ll get the same grade. I want them to stick with November because she’s already working towards it and the message given by changing, given that she could well resit, would be the wrong one. It wouldn’t be fair. Schools should just take the hit, and let the students get on with it.

We’ll see what happens. So far they have a ‘mock exam’ arranged for tomorrow. Sounds like a filtering process to decide on the November entries. Another rational tactical move, but rather unsettling.

But why are we here? It isn’t necessarily a popular view in the blogosphere but I think there are sound reasons for both of the decisions in principle.

With speaking and listening, I don’t doubt that OfQual’s evidence base is such that the profile of marks across the country has compromised the integrity of that component of the exam. There are some wild inconsistencies…and if the grades would lose credibility then action needs to be taken to restore it. Basically the moderation processes aren’t robust enough and it’s become too easy to prep students to get inflated good scores.

People are concerned about the potential damage to the value given to S&L in the curriculum..and I understand that. However, I think it is akin to practical work in science. Practical work is supremely important but I still don’t think it should be part of the exam…actually, practical work is better when it isn’t examined. It is just part of the learning. The ISAs are like S&L…it’s quite easy to get students a solid baseline score..but the mark range is very narrow, making grading very precarious.

With multiple entry, again, I think it is a good call to introduce a major disincentive as the DFE has just done. The argument about allowing students the opportunity to achieve success is fair but unfortunately, again, the pattern of school behaviour has distorted the whole system. It’s a simple truth that standards are determined by the performance of a whole cohort on a particular test. If certain students have multiple attempts and the others don’t, the whole structure of the assessment is distorted. It’s like giving half the long-jump field more jumps than the others. All students would benefit from taking a test twice or three times and using their best score. But when standards are set using this information, and some students only have one attempt, they are at a significant disadvantage. It has to be the same for all, within any exam series. It’s naive to think that multiple entry is OK for some students but won’t affect anyone else; there are winners and losers.

HOWEVER… Both of these changes have been introduced in a fashion that is inappropriate. DFE and OfQual should have got together (with OfSTED in the room too!) to look at the concerns that have emerged in recent times, to plan a proper set of reforms. They should have consulted widely, flagging changes to be implemented ahead of the next exam series. That would have built trust and confidence whilst also allowing schools to give coherent information to students with appropriate curriculum plans in place.

As it is, we’ve got guessing, tactical maneuvering, and a fair bit of gambling. The stakes are too high for that.

UPDATE: A final comment: I must admit I have been surprised by reactions this week that indicate how ubiquitous early entry is as a strategy, done in order to give students two attempts at the exam. I don’t doubt that this is done with students’ best interests at heart and with an eye on making RAISE look as positive as possible (which the whole school benefits from) BUT… now students are paying the price. Grades are derived at least in part from patterns of attainment across the cohort. If large numbers of students, but not all, take an exam twice within one series, the exam outcomes will be distorted. Students will fall from C to D somewhere, just as often as students push up from D to C. It was never going to be a sustainable strategy.

We need a system where all students take the exams in a similar pattern within each series, with opportunities to continue to improve in the next series. Meanwhile, all efforts should go into classroom practice instead of exam entry tactics; that’s the only legitimate route to genuine improvement in standards. Shoot me down from my lofty perch for saying it, but I think that’s true.


  1. As a parent of a year 11 child I’m waiting to see how this will affect us. I agree that wholescale early entry needed curtailing, but the timing is appaling


  2. The stakes are too high for all this nonsense. Already students are losing faith in what they are being told and schools have to unfortunately find a way to manage it. Many of the schools “playing the system” are working with students with chaotic lifestyles at home. Yet more government imposed chaos and stress is simply wrong. Yes to changes but plan them with students in mind not political careers. Shame on you Gove.


  3. As usual knee jerk reaction to a problem that successive governments of all political persuasions have created. On thought – how will the retakes of students post 16 in English and Maths work ?


  4. “Tom – I can’t agree with what you say about the public assessment of English Language S+L, other than about the moderation procedures being insufficiently robust, overall. Please be aware that we – here at your own school, KEGS! – had an external moderator visit us last year, for instance – who validated what we do – and spoke highly of the standards shown in the cross-group moderation session very carefully arranged by the 2nd-in-English. The moderator was senior and very experienced. It goes without saying that we have always ensured that we do not put in inflated marks …. I can’t speak for some schools, who, under the pressure of League tables, etc may try it on … But this is no reason for the powers-that-be to make an arbitrary decision – in the middle of the 2012-2014 course, notably, to remove S+L from the whole 100% assessment.

    The vast majority of English teachers nationally have, I am quite certain – appreciated the chance to assess S+L formally – this has given it tremendous status – and KEGS students well before and during your time have shone at this since it was brought in – and have deserved all the reliable marks their conscientious and highly professional staff have given them, for the many, many varied and challenging activities set over many years! I am certain what I am saying here applies to the vast majority of English teachers in the vast majority of schools.

    Can I, for instance, remind you of the exceptional and highly unusual Frankenstein S+L sessions we ran jointly with the Science Department for some years – the students needed the motivation of the marks – as well as the more important intrinsic motivation … I, could, of course, multiply examples – and could endlessly blog on about them, if time allowed – but I don’t yet blog – still warned by, Shakespeare, through Hamlet – “Words, words, words” – and by the very wise Quoheleth: ” … let your words be few.”

    And – I would be very surprised if the many argurumenatative, vociferous, voluminous and only occasionally verbose English teachers out there in the Blogosphere – some of whom rightly and frequently praise your blog – do not agree with me! Calling all headguruteacher’s pedablogological English teacher e-colleagues – go on – support me! – David Greenwood, KEGS Head of English.”


    • Thanks for the comment David. A staunch defence of Speaking and Listening in the curriculum and the exam! I don’t disagree in spirit.. but, sadly, I don’t think the grades from the process safely represent the intended standards across the country. OfQual wouldn’t have done this lightly.. so the situation must be pretty bad. Tragic really. Perhaps it will return in future? They say S&L will still be reported as a separate grade. I can’t believe that is much value on its own, but it will at least keep S&L from falling away as an entitlement.


      • Tom – the standards across the country are not a matter that individual English subject-leaders and English teachers who do do a professional job with their students can influence. But the grades gained by KEGS’ boys at your own school DO, truly, “safely represent” what your own students achieve here with the guidance of their teachers – please believe your specialist English Subject-leader on this – this is all I can say – and “there I stand I can do no other.” Please don’t refer me to your (I am sure very good) points about bell-curves – you know I have – like most self-respecting English teachers – a loathing for graphs, charts and all things merely mathematical … (and I can now happily confess to the world – or, at least to your readership – that my eyes glaze over when you show the staff your ever-rising Exam. result line-graphs at the start of each Academic year – I deliberately recite some soothing poetry to myself, as with Wordsworth’s sublime lines:

        ” …… when the fretful stir
        Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
        Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
        How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
        O sylvan Wye ”

        “…. Tintern Abbey.” lines, 52 – 56)

        By the way, enjoy Whitman’s ” …. Learned Astronomer” a poem for all Physics teachers, if you do not know it!

        I know you are trying to advocate a saner approach as regards public assessment – and you are to be commended for this – but, “sadly” – to use your own adverb – probably too few of your headteacher colleagues, nationally, do the same – and – more than sadly – some may indeed turn a blind eye – or do not know – if their English staff are submitting inflated grades. Yes, it is sad if “a few bad apples” …. – but lets not throw “the baby out with the bath water” (sorry, it is too late on a Friday afternoon for me to go beyond homely clichés here, rather than pluck an appropriate literary quotation from my “heat oppressed brain” (Macbeth), by the way).

        Where are all you avid English bloggers who frequently read Tom’s Blog – what do YOU think!? Tom tells me that you often “improve the shining hour” by interacting electronically.

        For me, electronic communication has its place – but nothing can replace face-to-face, real live dialogue – I am sure the great pedagogical Cambridge Faculty guru Robin Alexander (of “Dialogic teaching” renown) would agree.

        “Now you see through a screen darkly – then you will see face-to-face.”

        As for Facebook – well, all my English lessons are facebook lessons – students face to face, with, yes, actual books – and real voices …

        David Greenwood


    • I support you.

      And, in the current circumstances, I wish I could take my cue from Stephen Dedalus and say ‘Non serviam….’ as I have completely lost faith in those who have precipitated this ludicrous situation.

      Like you, I consider S & L to be the bedrock which underpins the students’ learning not only in English lessons, but across the curriculum. In the last external moderation report I received, my Department was commended on the impact that S & L had had across the school, and a large group of students – only one of whom was from the ‘top set’ – contributed to the moderation day programme. It was one of the most satisfying days of my teaching career.

      Fortified by this positive experience, I was offered the opportunity to spend last year working on a pioneering project, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which focused on developing Year 10 students’ S & L skills, using global issues as stimulus. I worked mainly with Year 10 students in five secondary schools around the county. Even though this meant an enormous drop in salary, I felt it would be worthwhile. During the course of the year, we filmed several different activities – group, paired and individual – and these have been archived. All activities were observed by at least two English teachers. You can imagine how I felt when the Speaking & Listening ‘consultation’ was announced. Incidentally, it irks me that Andrew Hall, the CEO of AQA, has got off scot free here. In my opinion, it was his letter to OFQUAL, prompted by his own fear of reduced profits if he paid his external moderators properly, which surely plunged us into this mess… (But he is welcome to challenge that assertion publicly if he should google his name and find my comment here.)

      Anyway, with support from my MP, Simon Wright, I managed to organise a conference call with three members of OFQUAL, to discuss the consultation document (on which I had ranted at length.) It was clear to me that the people to whom I was talking had no concept of the different moderation arrangements – and the variation in ‘robustness’ – employed by the different examination boards. I pointed out that CIE have required their teachers to record and upload S & L samples for many years, and MFL teachers across the country manage it. It really isn’t that complicated.

      Needless to say, it all came to nought, and those schools who had participated in my project – and entrusted me with at least 15 hours of their GCSE students’ time – suddenly discovered that these efforts would not count towards their students’ GCSEs. When I heard the final decision had been taken, I just sat down and cried. And I wasn’t alone.

      At that point, our only hope was that schools which had focused on S & L in Year 10 would have the option of November entry, so that the S & L would be counted towards the students’ final assessment. And then on Sunday….. Well, let’s not go there again.

      So I support your comments, David. And I would love to visit your Department one day, as it sounds as though there are all kinds of exciting things going on, including the cross-curricular work with MFL. As I speak (with varying degrees of fluency…) several language – including my husband’s language: Chichewa – I am always up for a cross-curricular language project! I also have strong leanings towards History, Politics, Sociology, Citizenship and PSHE – one of the best S & L projects I ran last year centred around the UNCRC and its links to various fiction and non-fiction texts.

      I am starting to digress, but thinking about last year cheered me up (salary notwithstanding). I feel that I now need to keep a very clear head, and support my current colleagues through this mess as best I can. One issue which has been neglected in the current crisis is that of English Departments run by inexperienced and Acting HoDs: even non-specialists, in some cases. For them, and I know a few people in that position, this week has been nasty, brutish… but sadly not short.

      There is more I could say, but I’ll stop there: voluminous and verbose – moi? Non!

      So, thank you for taking the trouble to reply at length to Tom’s comments; your posts were both entertaining and encouraging.

      Have a good weekend.


    • Some excellent points Dr Greenwood. I do not feel that you should write-off producing a blog so hastily, however. I for one would thoroughly enjoy reading it.

      Thomas Wing-Evans
      (Class of 2007)


    • Some excellent points Dr Greenwood. I do not feel that you should write-off creating a blog so hastily, however. I for one would thoroughly enjoy reading it.

      Thomas Wing-Evans
      (Class of 2007)


  5. Sadly, I wrote a very detailed comment, but have since lost it!

    David, I wholly agree. I am one of those English bloggers. I have blogged as much here: http://www.huntingenglish.com/2013/02/22/why-authentic-assessment-matters-assessing-speaking-and-listening/.

    The ‘baby and the bath water’ analogy is most salient. We too were visited for S&L moderation only this spring. I take great offence to be lumped as a “cheat” in the wide-ranging politicking labels used by our SoS. We were commended for our standards, accuracy and rigour. Don’t label us cheats – create a better system In a realistic time-frame with an expert team of educators whose political persuasion is placed second beyond their commitment to better standards – sounds like the remit of a certain Roundtable!

    If you remove S&L from high quality assessment you send the tacit message to the vast majority of schools and teachers, busy concentrating on crippling external measures and assessments! that oracy doesn’t matter. Right or wrong, in a system of high stakes accountability and blunt league tables, that is the ultimate outcome. The reporting of S&L is frankly a meaningless farce. The pedagogy of dialogic learning, debate and more formal opportunities for speaking and listening needs to be at the heart of our assessment model because what we assess determines what students learn.

    Perhaps we should look harder at the skewed accountability measures. OFQUAL should be busy enforcing standards of marking and moderation alongside making such late, sweeping changes (our latest 21 raw mark raise in an A2 Eng lit examination rather sticks in the throat!). A broken system will not be mended by decisions made in haste to for political cycles and conference seasons. We should listen to experts. Experts would highlight successful systems for moderating S&L skills, such as the IB diploma. It records assessments and moderates them appropriately. Why is this excellent model not fit for our system?


    • Alex – I am delighted you agree with me – Tom, what did I tell you?! Have you read the Whitman poem yet?! I think
      we’ve won this one!

      Alex – I have been meaning to get in touch to respond to your many very thought-provoking blogs –
      and have just much enjoyed your literary canon one (as a former research student of the great Frank Kermode, I like to revisit his profound thinking on the canon in his The Classic – and you’ve made me pull my Harold Bloom and George Steiner off my shelf).

      See also what Kermode writes in Forms of Attention (1985)- as quoted by Bloom The Western Canon
      page 4 (I am not normally a Bloom fan …)

      For me – and my colleagues in Tom’s KEGS English Department – it is always, as it is I am sure for you, a case of juxtaposition – the allegedly “great” with the yet-to-be-fully-appreciated, so, eg: Duffy’s Answering Back comes to mind – and any kind of reworking, later inter-textual response by a writer to a previous one. This is why compare contrast is, of course, central to Literature Teaching – as is work on Unseens. As an aside, we recently gladly said goodbye to the flaws and assessment inadequacies of A-Level (with far too many remarks with doubled raw scores – and so-called Examiners not giving credit to unusual answers from able students …). The CIE Pre-U in Literature has been so liberating so far – no CrASh and DASh to AS – time to grow with challenging Personal Investigations …. The Pre-U is not – nor should be – the preserve of certain types of school ….

      Back to the kanon –well done for bringing this to the attention of the blogosphere!

      Reading aloud – one of our current emphases here, allows students’ voices to merge with the voices of, say, a long dead, supposedly “canonical” male, with the voices of living writers – I / we do a lot of ad hoc experimentation with Reading Aloud…. I would be very interested in what you might think of our KEGS Learning Lessons Reading Aloud research and case studies with clips – enjoy the Milton “choric” reading?!

      Bakhtin is my headguruteacher for all forms of the dialogic …. So actual student voices can refashion the kanon – not only bringing the dead to some form of new life – but celebrating and enacting everything your wonderfully apposite quotation from Ruskin meant.

      I love “ tolle lege, tolle lege” (Augustine)!

      Greatly inspiring is the Daniel Pennac clarion call:

      “Silent texts for disembodied spirits? Give me Rabelais! Give me Flaubert, Dosto, Kafka! Give me Dickens! Come forth, great trumpeters of meaning! Come forth and breathe life into our books! Our words need making flesh! Our books need life!”

      (“Quoi? Des texts muets pour de purs espirits? A moi, Rabelais! A moi, Flaubert! Dosto!Kafka! Dickens, a moi! Gigantesques brailleurs de sens, ici tout de suite! Venez souffler dans nos livres! Nos mots ont besoin de corps! Nos livres ont besoin de vie!”)

      Hoping to hear from you soon,

      David Greenwood


      • ‘…Learned Astronomer’ is one of my favourite poems by the way!

        We have been close to ditching A levels in English before, at least AQA, but we have conservatively held with what we know (alongside the IB, which has alas now gone, with cuts to funds post-16). We will take a look at the full gamut of choice when 2015 comes along. I follow the KEGs magazines and I have enjoyed the focus on oracy and dialogic talk. I also thought the work in MFL was excellent (particularly the use of literature). I will look again at the research – thank you.

        AQA, and Andrew Hall, should indeed be questioned as to their role in all this. It did come down to profits and OFQUAL didn’t grasp the real impact on learning, as shown by Fran’s communication. I just think it doesn’t have anything to do with learning, but more to do with costs and ideology. People question S&L assessment, but they appear to accept the underlying causes of clumsy and destructive accountability measures.

        I’m glad you liked my canon post. I had written from a similar perspective about juxtaposing the modern and the classic in ‘Reading with Michael Gove’. It is a slow and steady process, but I do hope that there can be a growing movement that recognising that you can teach the canon in an accessible way and without being wrongly disparaging of modern texts.

        Very glad to hear from you. It is great to see that there are English SLs not willing to lie down over our curriculum changes.


  6. It is with some trepidation that I add my words to those of my esteemed colleagues, yet I may still have something to add. Greetings to to Dr Greenwood, Ms Nantongwe and Mr Quigley. It occurs to me that another dimension to this argument is that which examines the effect of recent decisions on the quality of the assessment tool itself.

    English is not simply “Literacy”, no matter the importance of language acquisition and the development in accuracy of expression in schools. The study of English asks students to think deeply, respond emotionally and intellectually, balance conflicting ideas; compare and contrast. They must focus on a finite detail and reflect on how it might represent a greater whole and they must employ their knowledge and insight in the pursuit of expressing their own unique world view as well as, at times, persuading others to it. Sometimes their investigations will span centuries and create connections between individuals and cultures who have never met. At its best, the subject will touch on the sublime.

    Our assessment programmes should, at the very least, attempt to allow for some of this to be acknowledged, evaluated and affirmed. One way to achieve this is to allow for assessment to occur in a range of contexts. Effective assessment will give an accurate representation of students’ progress towards an agreed outcome. Allowing students to demonstrate some of their subtlety of understanding, capacity with language and observation of detail and connections through verbal discourse is an excellent means of providing a valid context for evaluating their progress towards succeeding on the aforementioned aims. The system in the UK is now so narrowed that I fear the only thing many of our students are going to leave school able to effectively achieve is success in handwritten examinations. “Education” is fast being reduced to being an exercise in preparation for examinations, which are themselves assessing diminishing outcomes – all, ironically, in the pursuit of ‘rigour’.

    Every call I make to a call centre these days proves this. I’m speaking to automatons who have been stripped of the capacity to think for themselves and instead have become deft at reproducing language provided to them whose sole purpose is to confound and obfuscate. They are not ‘listening’ to me or ‘speaking’ to me, they are verbalising a pre-determined response whose purpose is to placate. Is this the life we wish to prepare our students to lead?

    I had an experience on Friday that I’m certain would be echoed throughout the English classrooms of the UK. We had a visitor from the Royal Shakespeare Company who was working with us to develop an interpretation of a scene from Titus Andronicus, the Shakespearian play we’re studying in Year 11 for English Literature. A student in the class who has dyslexia, and in whose group I was working (don’t you love those moments when you get to be a student in your own classroom?) mentioned to me “English is my worst subject, but it’s the one I enjoy the most”. English is emphatically not this young man’s worst subject. He is clever and subtle and ironic and his capacity with language is a delight – but this is when he speaks. When he reads and writes, he is largely incoherent. According to the examining board, he is going to ‘fail’, though, and we both know it – and by extension I am also at risk of failing as a teacher, and my school is also at risk of failing as an institution. My view is that the examining boards and those who determine their agenda are the ones who are failing. They are failing that young man, and those like him who are simply better at talking than writing, me and my school. They are not adequately assessing our performance against the aims of our subject and they are claiming success for their failure to do so.

    As an added note, I think it’s an appalling state of affairs if a whole sector of the curriculum is removed from national assessments simply because the examining bodies are unable to administer adequate moderation practices. These bodies work for us and our students, and they’re failing us dismally – our faith in their competency is shredded. In our school alone the anomalies, discrepancies and subsequent alterations to students’ grades after re-marking of their work have been alarming and disappointing. The students’ futures are directly affected by the grades they achieve and I already have four cases of students who had to pursue alternative further education paths because of insufficient grades only to find now – too late – that their grades were sufficient for entry into those courses all along.

    I firmly agree with Dr Greenwood and I thank the digital Gods for bringing your words to my desktop.

    Chris Waugh


    • Thanks for adding your wise words to this post Chris. I think that all four of you – Chris, Alex, Fran and David – make an unassailable case for the importance of speaking and listening in the curriculum.

      My view on this stems from a technocratic interpretation of the outcomes of the assessments that have been presented via exam boards to OfQual. There has evidently been a catastrophic failure of the moderation process. The systems required to ensure fairness and consistency for a national exam with a major centre-assessed component are huge and complex. My worry is that, in the current accountability culture, we will never get systems that are up to the task. It could be that Speaking and Listening is more likely to thrive and survive with it’s integrity intact outside of this machinery. I certainly feel that way about practical work in science.

      I don’t disagree about the inherent value of S&L and I hope that is clear to all! It’s just a case of finding the best way to protect it.


      • Yes, it’s clear that you don’t undervalue speaking and listening – but what would you say if a politician decided to remove reading and writing from the national assessment tools?

        I think the important distinction here is that I’m not simply talking about assessing speaking and listening. I’m talking about speaking as a mode of demonstrating progress against a wide range of other objectives in English, which is something that is currently inherent in the assessments we have. Many countries have national spoken or oral assessments in English and if these can be moderated adequately elsewhere, as well as in other qualifications like the iGCSE, why not in the UK the home qualifications?

        I do not see in English practice much evidence of elements of the curriculum that aren’t assessed becoming enhanced as a result. I still recall in my first year in the UK sitting in an AQA professional development session and being told “The starting point is the examination spec, everything you need to do should stem from that”. Many of my colleagues, then and now, don’t even know what the actual curriculum documents look like!


    • I wanted to thank you, Chris, for your comments on “span the centuries” and “touch on the sublime” – and you have very ably and elegantly summed up the English teacher’s credo in your excellent second paragraph – and gone well beyond what I wrote in terms of the debate, as did Alex. No digital gods brought me to your desktop – but I am delighted to meet you, if only through a screen …

      I will leave Tom to his, for me, all too “technocratic” concerns – Tom, read again how passionately and eloquently my English colleagues have written about this issue! May many round and ribald Shakespearean curses fall upon anything “technocratic” in education.

      And, Tom, I’ll take this up with you in school soon – I do think we English teachers are winning this one – but I must re-read some Hardy, Keats and Mary Shelley for my lessons tomorrow – hoping that my students can have glimpses beyond our overly “technocratic” world.
      David Greenwood


  7. Hi Tom, I agree with you about assessment of practical science, though I note that SCORE does not, so this puts me in a delicate position with ex-colleagues. Did my own rather irate blog on the Gove announcement, but subsequently found a post by Keven Bartle very helpful especially on the GCSE English S&L decision ramifications. As you say accountability is driving the whole system and I really am intrigued to know the outcomes of all the separate consultations i.e. the 3 from DfE and 1 from HTRT. I am sure many students and their parents would love some synchronicity between Government, Ofsted and Heads on this but realise it is a big ask …


  8. I agree with all that is being said here. However, my original point is still that, de facto, the assessment data for Speaking and Listening in August must have been such that the link between marks and standards had drifted too far for valid grades to be awarded. I don’t understand why the issues were not pushed back to the source of the concerns, instead of tarring everyone with the same brush, but perhaps this was just too widespread. It has become too formulaic; too easy to deliver a performance to meet criteria rather than an alternative means of expressing ideas in the way Chris suggests.

    Even with more moderation, this aspect of circus trick responses wouldn’t necessarily be addressed. I wonder what the system would need to be like to capture the spirit of all that has been said above without capitulating under the pressure of accountability, devaluing the entire process.

    Art exams, for example, are tightly moderated with visiting examiners to every GCSE and A Level Art exhibition. But the scale is manageable. If Art grades, for the sake of argument, became a core threshold measure for schools, soon enough we’d get more formulaic responses, less artistic integrity and the moderation system would buckle. I don’t know what the answer is.. we’re clearly in a bad place with this.


    • From Walt Whitman

      When I heard the technocratic OfQual man,
      When the results, the graphs were ranked in spreadsheets before me,
      When I was shown the scores and piecharts, to prove S+L assessment was flawed,
      When I sitting read headguruteacher’s blog, where he writes with deserved applause
      in the twittersphere,
      How soon understandably I became piqued and tired,
      Till rising and reading quietly from my cloth-bound Keats,
      I travelled once again into the realms of gold,
      Entranced by the sublime “wild surmise”


      • Tom, how kind – I wish this was true! Your own assembly recital of The Jabberwocky was excellent, today – and as for the Year 7s taking us through the “Seven Ages” – that sounded “sublime” – sadly, I think I am in the fifth age – you still in your prime, in the 4th?! (or 3rd?)

        So, O blogosphere, Tom, as you know, is a man of many, many talents – including now newly revealed, reciting Lewis Carroll …

        Tom, your next Learning by Heart challenge is …….. the Whitman original, referred to in this exchange – not my rather piqued parody!

        David G.


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