Making the Grade

Thursday, August 27th

Today sees the much delayed results published for the poor BTech students who have been kept waiting for the powers that be to get their act together. If that isn't bad enough, people are also suggesting that relying on teachers' assessments is devaluing the grades awarded because they are too optimistic and above the average percentages of other years. What nonsense!

What has happened is that the people who have the best awareness of what young people are capable of are awarding the grades in place of an impersonal exam board which has only a moment-in-time examination as evidence of a person's ability. I enjoyed exams. They terrified my sister. Luckily, I had the temperament to cope with the exam atmosphere and the ability to cram information the nights before exams and produce good grades. They disguised my lack of desire to apply myself to school learning throughout the year. Continuous assessment would have been my downfall.

In many subjects, passing a 2 hour exam does not necessarily reflect our ability to apply the subject matter to a real life task. Having spent many years training children's and youth workers, I am aware that the ability to regurgitate theories of Child Development and Programme Planning does not prove to me that a person who has passed exams in those subjects is best qualified to work with the young. I want to see those people in action, relating to the youngsters they work with, applying their knowledge in actual, everyday situations, before I can say 'I trust this person to care for and nurture our children and young adults.'

We've placed too much emphasis on the intellectual ability to pass exams for too long. We need to stop seeing A levels as superior to BTechs - they are designed for different skill paths. We need to cut the snobbery that says, 'you must have a degree.' We need to start seeing the potential in each youngster we work with and encourage them to draw out the latent skills which will help them to be motivated adults. Isn't that what Education means?

We should not be putting question marks around the grades of 2020. That doesn't help a year group of students who had no option but to go with whatever our government eventually decided. In the end they've been graded by those who may know best. And some have been spared the agony of an exam setting which would not have shown their true potential anyway.

Jesus' team were a motley bunch. One or two might have passed a BTech in fishing strategies and Matthew might have passed A level Maths with an A*. As it happened, what they needed to lead the Early Church was a modicum of intelligence, an ability to learn from their failures and a good deal of common sense. There aren't many GCSEs that can really prove that.

A Prayer

Mother, Father God,

Lead us gently through the apprenticeship of life.

Help us to maintain our appetite for learning -

Especially from our mistakes.

Give us the ability to cherish and nurture our children's talents.

May we always look for the opportunity to encourage our young people,

Help us to see them as teachers as well as learners,

And value the energy and joy they bring to our lives.


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