Bad Examining

bad english

A couple of things before referring to and writing briefly about the articles to follow:

I am not opposed to testing/examining as a blanket view – I have been a Senior GCSE English Literature examiner for over 30 years [I think that’s a biggie in dispelling myths on this line], but I am totally opposed to testing/examinations where the content and method of assessment are inherently flawed. I therefore have to stress that my main and continuing opposition within national testing regimes is to English SATs, now at Key Stages 1 and 2 – I have significant experience of English Key Stage 3 testing where content and mark schemes were, when taken together, simply punitive; and I have closely followed the, previously, English SPaG and now GPS testing papers, and these are as punitive in overall impact as well as meaningless in terms of teaching and learning as the KS3 nonsense when it existed.

The second rather obvious point is I have chosen the following articles to support my views, though one is an alternative perspective but it highlights my concerns all the same. If you want to read articles in support of testing and similar, check out Minister of State Nick Gibb’s twitter postings where he references loads of complete drivel in support of his ideologue’s fervour where a complete lack of actual educational [teaching and learning] experience is no barrier to holding a position of influence in Education.

The first is today’s Guardian article urging parents to boycott again this year’s SATs. I simply support this because I think parents need to be more proactive in expressing – here through protest – that they have informed and knowing opinions on the pointlessness of and damages caused by SATs. I have written elsewhere on this blog my view of these ‘damages’ and how not to overstate, so I won’t repeat this here.

One quick ‘other’ support of my view about boycotting SATs is that we as individuals need to be more critical of and proactive against those decisions made on our behalf by governments where their purposes are blatantly beyond stated intentions.

The second is in yesterday’s Schools Week and it is from a Head urging parents not to boycott SATs. Referenced partly as potential balance, I of course disagree and think the needs expressed about requiring assessment on pupil progress are patently true but better served by teacher assessment – after all, they/we are the experts. Any scrutiny of English SATs papers and mark schemes will demonstrate their significant remove from meaningful expertise.

The third is a genuinely disturbing analysis and observation reported by University of Cambridge research here. I think the review of and response to ethos and practice in a school which, among many suspect approaches, sees ‘exam’ success as such a high priority links into my questioning of the value of examining – though I admit this is at secondary level and thus GCSE which is less my adamant concern [though the secondary testing and target culture is a part of the larger despairing national picture].

Those recent reports – much on Twitter – of schools now following ‘four year’ GCSE courses in order to hit targets is another layer of incredulity.

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