GCSE English Literature – Examining for 2021: Encore x 4

This is the latest latest, and it revolves around AQA. This is now an illustrative explanation of what they are offering, as I wrote about last night,

aqa 2021 latest latest

It puts AQA out there as the maverick, though I’m not convinced this is attractively so. I still have to research – if bothered – but I think they are the only English exam board making an extra compulsory element [in addition to Shakespeare].

As I have written previously, in other times, Poetry should be a core and students by and large engage and respond extremely well, and in the most pertinent case to this thread, they do well in the unseen element of Poetry study and response. However, as AQA’s initial ‘maverick’ response was to make the Poetry Anthology study compulsory – this to answer the challenge made by a number at the time to Ofqual’s ‘options’ decision which would have allowed the dropping of Poetry – I don’t see how the unseen poetry substitute for this addresses/answers that challenge.

Interestingly, early critics of AQA’s first change [now changed] referred to those mounting the challenge I have mentioned as ‘celebrity poets’! I had my reservations about the bandwagon of this, but the poets who mostly articulated that challenge do not deserve that denigration. Mostly. And that’s another argument/opinion.

Anyway, teaching and preparing for AQA’s ‘extra’ compulsory element does in the first instance break the whole pragmatic premise of Ofqual’s initial decision. Teaching to this will require a focus quite different to reading and exploring poetry in the Anthology. And surely, it will be ‘teaching to this’ precisely because it increases the amount that has to be taught in reduced time which was the whole point of the pragmatic decision from Ofqual [I genuinely find it uncomfortable to seem to support them, so I’m not, just acknowledging].

Unseen poems have often been very good and engaging and eliciting fine responses. But precisely because they are unseen they are selected for this: the timing and so on. Without explaining this further, I hardly see this satisfying/accommodating the arguments that had been made about keeping Poetry Anthology study compulsory.

So it would seem to be a decision made to accommodate what AQA explained [and I referenced in my previous about this] which is the allocation of marks. All I wonder is how if other exam boards are able to work across three elements [including Shakespeare as compulsory] I don’t understand why AQA can’t do some mathematical jiggery-pokery to achieve the same. Unless they want to be ‘different’.

Finally, as AQA are the largest exam board for this subject, will AQA schools who dislike this version be able to change their exam board? That would seem to be a whole other pragmatic decision that wouldn’t particularly help teachers and schools that already have to bear the burden of extra and uncertain work in these existential times.

GCSE English Literature – Examining for 2021: Encore x 3

The latest provisional latest is courtesy of AQA and it is as clear as any oxymoron would be:

aqa 2021 latest

Having jumped on the compulsory poetry bandwagon – you know, the one with the square wheels – they immediately had to reconsider as it fell into a ditch full of murky decision-making.

OK, I’m stopping with the figurative tangent. This is yet another variation on what had been a pragmatic decision from Ofqual that was probably the clearest decision they ever made as Ofqual. So the poetry anthology study is now an option, though unseen poetry is tagged onto Shakespeare as the compulsory element. I’ve lost track with how this fits in with the other big players so will just leave it at that. The argument presented is that poetry has a vital percentage element to covering the course, but I’m wondering how, in a pragmatic move to lessen the amount of text/s that need to be studied [quite simply because of time], the percentage allocations themselves could not be altered for this one year?

Study Habits

Habit strength
is for those situations
when reaction

is an increase in reaction

with strong anxiety
by the arousal of greater

Stimulus properties
in a multiplicative framework

and augmentation
has been a difference in
characteristics of

human anxiety.
Anxiety adds to anxiety,
results find,

as stimulus-response:
both positions recognise stimulus

to the habit strength
within the framework to emphasise
the drive

to characteristics in
that anxiety which adds to anxiety
while other research

evoked variables.
Studying the drive will have been
the theory

but the importance
of anxiety is as emphasis upon intermediate
variables and drive.

GCSE English Literature – Examining for 2021: Encore x 2

I’ve written on this site about next year’s revamped GCSE English Literature examination requirements here

both in terms of Ofqual’s decision to reduce workload by making elements optional, and the subsequent ‘outrage’ from teachers and others about making the study of poetry one of the optional components. Mine was, and still is, a pragmatic view, not about any ideologies regarding the study of poetry [which in ‘normal’ times I would always make a feature of study, and examined if terminal examinations have to exist…], but about the absolute pragmatism of the Ofqual decision and most teachers’ quite understandable pragmatic responses to this.

And that was the situation, despite the disagreements, and teachers will have planned over the summer accordingly.

However, AQA have suddenly intervened to unsettle even more that unsettled, if nonetheless, established reality of what would be the case for 2021. I have no idea if this was simply opportunistic – appearing to side with that outcry to keep poetry a compulsory element [myself and most others, I would suspect, having no idea it was possible to interpret Ofqual’s decision] and therefore making them an ‘attractive’ choice to those with that view – but it certainly isn’t pragmatic. Here is their offering, at the time of writing:

aqa 2021

This was immediately confusing for me, and didn’t – and still doesn’t – make sense. What this would effectively do is increase the commitment to teach and for students to respond to the number of elements for the 2021 – precisely what Ofqual’s initial decision sought to avoid because of Covid and GCSE students’ loss of time in schools.

I would consider myself one of the more consistently passionate English teachers when it comes to securing good sense and professional ideology regarding English teaching and the curriculum. In this case, however, I could understand entirely the pragmatic decisions made, by Ofqual [surprisingly] and teachers [as ever when dealing with imposed change]. I mention because there are others, who I respect hugely, also arguing for other alternatives where, for example, students respond to all four elements of the syllabus and their lowest mark in examination is disregarded. That sounds sensible, but it doesn’t address the fundamental problem of students having significantly less time [and it looks like there will be further impacts of Covid] with which to study.

Add to this the fact teachers will have planned their ‘reduced’ teaching, I cannot understand these latest developments at all. By all means, just scrap the exams entirely for 2021 and set up teacher assessment opportunities to award grades [though I accept the genuine problems here of standardising/moderating]. But that isn’t going to happen, therefore…

To add to this confusion, AQA are now ‘listening’ to teachers’ reactions to the decision they made after the first apparent ‘listening’.


The Best Joke

Have you washed your hands?
she asks as if it is the best joke ever when you have
an obsession, but these no longer exist,

now that Tommy and Les
are gone – and Boyle’s are more an
evisceration of complacency.

I could scrub until my hands are raw
quips the cleaner to his manager, he guffawing
at the platitudes of the poor.

The virus was meant to be the
great leveller, yet playing fields are still mowed
to their inherited perfections,

and getting rid of it
has become the cash-cow for the
already wealthy.

It was always with us, the joke
on most of us, the hand-washing the simplest ruse
to convince us that all was easy,

lying how they were reasonable people:
just as long as those who didn’t really need it
weren’t asking for soap.

Boris’ Moonshot

The moon does
have its own pull, more poetic lore
than its iron core

and a gravity formed
from the debris of its astronomical
birth; more like

another mutant
on the block of hopeless metaphor.
We have been there before

because it is,
and within a shot as achievable
as that is too:

I mean,
phenomenal. So this terrestrial aim
is no more than name in

being unfeasible,
more like a photo op than an orbit
to attain, more Luna

than the tic
tock of a countdown that will fail;
poetry that rhymes

just for how it sounds.
There is no fury, and the basic bore
is just this.

The Rule of Six

A new magic,
the rhetoric of an argument
without foresight

but repeated
again and again and again and again
and again and again

as if enough –
magic like feeding with loaves and fish,
a diet of faith

where there is none.
Hands / hands / face / face / space / space:
if we double up

to double down.
It is all podium talk when they cannot
walk the walk, and

it is just a list.
Rules are there for the forsaking,
as are the dead.