At the chalkface: Dave Mania and the mockeries

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

She smiles ruefully at his fabulous fibs. He does more anguished sighing. “Please Miss, can I be excused the mockeries.”

Dave Mania – PhD in Mayhem – ponders on the looming mocks. He seems to have been doing – and failing – a mock exam all his life and has had an ample sufficiency of them. He is still working – well, not working – towards Level 3c and can’t see why another exam will be other than another catastrophe. But maybe there’s a glimmer of hope. There might just be a way out.

He’s not the only one who’s had enough. Miss Jupe, his lovely tutor, also has. She’s just been talking in PSHE about “wellbeing” and the lack thereof in English schools. She confessed that teaching only to the test is driving her nuts and quoted Lord Gus O’Donnell, former head of the civil service. Gus has also had enough. He laments our “addiction” to exams, which cause stress, anxiety and failure: “We are sleepwalking into a deepening crisis.” Yep. We are hatching a “troubled generation”. Yep. All good stuff, your lordship, but we know this. We’ve known it since 1988 with the concoction of the National Curriculum. Dave knows it. Miss Jupe knows it. Dave is much more than a measurable outcome.

“We’re not here just to pass bloody exams,” she rages almost in tears. “Maybe Ofsted should measure wellbeing.” Her pastoral lesson ends. The class file out.
Dave waits behind. “That Gus geezer is well sussed.” He sighs melodramatically. “I’m well worried about me mental ’elf.” So is Miss Jupe.

“I’m well worried about me bein’ well.” So is Miss Jupe.

“It’s the stress. These mockeries are doin’ me ‘ed in. Drivin’ me mental! I could tip over the edge.”

So could Miss Jupe. She smiles ruefully at his fabulous fibs.

He does more anguished sighing. “Please Miss, can I be excused the mockeries.”

On mental ’elf grounds, presumably.

“I need a break from all this.”

A break? Dave’s been having a break since reception. Still, she admires his chutzpah. Why can’t he use his native wit, his sharp intelligence on the curriculum? “I might need a headshrinker.”

Ah, Miss Fix-It the Freudian? Or a bit of mindfulness? Dave has always seemed beyond therapy. Maybe he is supremely sane. Whatever, they both concur with his lordship’s savage dissing of the exam system. Don’t most of you? Couldn’t this be a tipping point? Isn’t it finally time we stood up to this pernicious nonsense?

Dave’s very probable failure in the mockeries would just be an excuse to “off-roll” him and thus not contaminate the school’s precious league table position. It’s all the go. It’s what management want.

Miss Jupe ponders the looming mocks: “I’ll see what I can do.”

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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