Exam factories

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Some of my teaching chums were deemed “rebels” for years. When they tried to break out of the strait-jacket they went bonkers and were sometimes put back in one. Or sacked. Tragic stuff. We spent years ducking and weaving and ditching the wretched curricu

Well, perhaps no longer. This year the grades slightly fell. Why? Those “exam factories”. Says who? The CBI. Honest – and I thought they weren’t keen on us “loony lefties”. Whatever, Katja Hall, the CBI’s chief director of policy, says: “We don’t want exam robots. We want young people who are stretched, rounded and grounded.” 

It all sounds a bit painful. Are our students balloons? Plump dullards? Like my Dennis Plum? The morbidly dull Plum certainly became very “rounded”, what with the canteen’s policy of Snickers and Twizzlers and chips. But “stretched”? Dennis spent five years on the rack of the national curriculum and it didn’t take at all.

Still, one can only concur with Katja. I consult another recent CBI Manifesto. “Turning Schools into Exam Factories Benefits No-one.” Blimey. “Abolish 16-plus Exams.” The lot. Yikes. So says John Cridland, the CBI Director-General himself. He too is a fan of those “rounded and grounded people”. 

It gets better. “The best teachers,” says he, “are rebels against the system.” Go Johnny Go! “They have had to break out of the straitjacket of the curriculum.” 

I read this twice.

Some of my teaching chums were deemed “rebels” for years. When they tried to break out of the strait-jacket they went bonkers and were sometimes put back in one. Or sacked. Tragic stuff. We spent years ducking and weaving and ditching the wretched curriculum and then just gave up and conked out and taught to those dread tests. 

Of course we did. Babies need bonnets, rents need paying and Offhead need fobbing off. Moreover, the more poor and luckless pupils need those C grades. So we create robots to tick boxes to perhaps get a job – and keep ours.

“Exam factories” indeed. They can’t go on. Is there any hope? Perhaps. But not from the Gove. He also wants change – for the worse. He wants exams to be more rigorously rubbish and has, accordingly, dredged up some dreadful relics from the 1950s, whereby those poor and luckless will have a better chance of failing and hence accommodate the falling job market. 

Nor is he keen on the CBI’s “rebels”. The great sage just had a big turn and savaged Miliband and militants and rebels and unions and weeds and wets like me, who are “ideologically motivated” – Trotskyists. Marvellous. Is he going for prime minister? He might well need a bit of that vigorous stretching or a permanent grounding... or a rather rigorous squashing.


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