Yesterday was results day for GCSEs. For me personally it was a nerve wrecking experience. In fact, I was more nervous for my pupils than I was when I picked up my results all those years ago.
You see, as a teacher in England you live or die (professionally of course, not literally; the death squads only operate in the NHS) on your results. If your pupils do well it; opens up opportunities for promotion, forces congratulations from management and gives you the warm feeling of having achieved something. If you do poorly - you are noted as a teacher of limited effectiveness.
Bearing in mind that these were my first results, it was a terrifying drive to school.
Luckily for me (and I suppose my pupils) my results were quite good. I got 77% A*-C. That's 11% higher than the national average. With a bottom and middle set. I was very happy.
However, after the results were published we had the yearly berating by the press that the exams are getting easier. They may well be right - I don't know as I haven't been teaching long enough to compare the papers from the past decade. What it does suggest to me is that perhaps the current exam process isn't rigorous or respected enough to truly assess how our young people have progressed from entering school to the minimum leaving age.
Perhaps therefore, it is time for a radical change. As such, I have drawn up a list of possible alternatives to the current system of examinations:
1) Grade or No Grade. 15 unmarked, red boxes are selected at random by a pupil. Each box contains a grade. The aim is to 'hold on' to the highest grade until the end. The pupil will be periodically phoned by the examiner who will offer a grade that can be accepted (thus ending the exam) or refused (forcing the exam to continue).
2) Stealth Examinations. Pupils have no set exam date or time. Instead, examiners dressed as ninjas will 'jump' the pupil at some point in their day to day lives (in Tesco for instance). After being wrestled to the ground the pupil will be asked a series of questions relating to their chosen subjects.
3) Subject 'rap battle'. Pupils are partnered with an examiner where they have to rap for 3 minutes on a particular subject. For instance 'The character of Lennie in 'Of Mice and Men' is considered to be weak by other characters in the novel. Bring it'. The cypher (or as it used to be known 'the exam board') award marks for originality and rhyme. A*s are only given out if the examiner leaves the stage in tears.
4) Practical exams. Pupils are given a 1972 Austin Maxi and a copy of a Heynes Manual for 2001 Renault Clio (mk 2) and have to fudge some repairs. Extra marks awarded for inwardly whistling between the teeth, shaking the head and saying 'it's gonna be a nightmare job my darlin'. You're lookin' at at least three-hundred quid, love'.
5) Drama. Pupils are forced to consume copious amounts of alcohol and then are dropped off at home. Grades are awarded based on the perceived severity of the punishment meted out by parents in a descending scale. To wit, a three week grounding will result in a C. An A* is awarded if the pupil escapes with no punishment - it would be felt that they had acted their way clear of parental retribution.
I believe that the above would actually help our pupils to develop the skills they need to get on in adult life. Namely: blind luck, quick thinking, analytical thought, problem solving and bullshitting your way out of impossible situations.
I will be recommending these changes to the government post-haste.