Sunday, 1 July 2012

Exam Break

Ready For Posting

Yesterday I finished the GCSE English Literature marking of a centre of 230 students that I had been working on since the end of May. With two exam jobs running concurrently, there were times when I would obviously be marking/moderating other work, and a feature of both jobs is to review the work of other examiners as well as check Report writing, so it wasn’t a case of working on this one centre full time for four weeks. However, it is still the case that over that four week period this has been a consistent focus. In this respect, that is an interesting phenomenon of the marking process: to have the responsibility for the work of all the students in that school’s large cohort.The bags in the photo contain all I have done to date, including the one large centre.

Spending that amount of time on this single centre – even if spread out – one develops a strong sense of the candidates’ particular characteristics, which includes obviously teaching styles/approaches and how well the students have absorbed and interpreted this. I’m not giving anything away that is confidential – and wouldn’t – but individual schools can develop quite distinctive and therefore richly variable characteristics and that is phenomenal to experience. Now, rather than map out the ‘difficult’ territory of that comment, I’m going to leave the observation unchartered for now, and just say that this school’s students responded with consistently informed understanding and could articulate this at least clearly and often with considerable flair [that latter observation just wants to poke a hole in so many recent - and annual - hot air voice bubbles wherein cartoon captions constantly and erroneously debase the writing skills of the young].

This wasn’t meant to be an essay and I simply wanted to get that picture posted at the head of this posting, but I have a little more to say: it also takes a certain kind of resilience to read the 230th response to Of Mice and Men and know you must treat that response with the attention and freshness it deserves. The paradox is that Curley’s wife only wears so much red to signal danger as well as sexuality, and she has a finite number of sausage curls hanging meatily or metaphorically about her infinitely interpretable face, but each time such details are reported and explored there is an individual start point to that long and indefinite lineage of answering.

In closing this cathartic little break from the further marking I still have, it’s worth mentioning a glorious educational resonance from the tens and tens of thousands of students responding to An Inspector Calls. This year they should have an absolutely rock-solid appreciation of Priestley’s presentation of the insidious evil of capitalism, now played for real in the recent and continuing revelations about British banking practices. Where the rare student still hasn’t fully grasped the ironic complexity of Curley’s wife’s presentation, not one has been under any illusions about Birling’s representation of greed and selfishness. Informed, articulate, politically and morally astute!


  1. I'm with you on all of this,Some Awe! Love the pic, by the way. I now have 80 to go and the picture made me chuckle as I think of my own "piles"!I think yours are definitely bigger than mine, though...

    1. Frankly. examiners' piles or haemorrhoids, as you fairly obviously refer to, are no chuckling matter. If,you are examiners with any sort of experience, you will know this medical affliction is an occupational hazard and goes with the job so to speak. Personally speaking if you wallas want to spend all summer on your backsides in the garden inflating the grades of our criminally illiterate teenagers just to make certain schools. or academies, look good for their Ofsted inspection you deserve all the pain in the arse you get. Get out to Singapore where teachers teach, students learn, and people like you get a pittance for ensuring the grades the thing!

  2. Wasn't expecting Michael Gove to stop by, but thanks for your, as usual, cogent insight.

  3. Dear Anonymous-you have no idea what you are talking about. Oh and I would much rather be " people like me" than someone like you. Fortunately we know that what we are doing has integrity, whatever people like you might think.

  4. Dear Trishg - I came on this site accidentally, and have enjoyed the music reviews as it is obvious that I share similar tastes to the blog owner and have enjoyed the well written, if lengthy observations on his/her musical preferences. However after 6 years examining experience the anecdote about marking, standards, hard work etc really stuck in the throat. Your risible reference to integrity makes me hoot. The national newspapers have this year exposed your 'integrity' for what it is, and what is more the government, at last, are on your case. The bankers are in the line of fire just now but I believe that Mr Gove is correct; if we are to revive this country's economic fortunes, then we need to address the deception and counterfeiting that lies at the core of our examination system. I came on this site to enjoy some musical memories. Sadly, I will not be visiting again due to 'people like you' who use these sites to espouse dubious and spurious political views knowing that there is no one else who would give them the time of day. And by the way my time with the WJEC shows that I do know what I am talking about!

  5. 1. Integrity of working in a country that suppresses its citizens?
    2. Tarring all educationalists working in a certain country as agents of the state is just plain odd.
    3. Er.......a bit like point 1 above.
    5. Don't be fooled by the picture. That chair is VERY small, and those scripts are A6 sized.
    6. I was educated in the UK and my numeracy has suffered.
    8. Sir has more integrity than many others I have had the pleasure of working with.
    12. Let's just enjoy the music, perhaps??

  6. Well, this post has aroused more than any music observations! Thanks for point 8, by the way; point 12 probably draws this to a neat close as for those of us who are poles apart on the issues raised in the posting and comments, there's no chance of compromise, but I do sincerely hope anyone who stops by can get something from the musical focus and the observations, not that I would ever expect consensus on music appreciation, and that rich tapestry is presumably beyond reproach.

  7. Music definitely-and poetry too please:0)