Back in the mid 1980’s examining boards decided that the current examination system in schools were either too easy, or they just fancied a change. The tried and tested method of GCEs or CSEs were to be amalgamated into the (spookily enough) GCSEs, and the new examinations would be rolled out in 1988. The year I was to take my exams.
At the time, the basis behind it was that a final exam was too easy, and someone could cram in the last few days and pass, but then forget the rest of what they’d learnt. So the new exam was to be weighed heavily on coursework. The problem with coursework was that it was to be done at home, something I was notorious for not doing. So my teachers hatched a plan, a conversation of which I can still imagine today…
“What about him, he’ll never pass without any coursework to submit”
“I know, do you think we could get him to do ‘O’ Levels as well?”
“That’s a good idea! Well dress it up that we want to see how he’ll cope with the old system and the new system.”
And so it was. A dozen or so of the new students were handpicked to work towards their ‘O’ Levels in their 4th year, followed by their GCSEs in the 5th. I was to do several exams. Primarily Maths CSE, ‘O’ Level Statistics (!), English and a science of our choosing. I chose Physics. Now for some reason never fathomed out, they decide to make exams take place whilst us boys were going through the hormone hell that was puberty. I was more interested in Nicola Curtis (a Maria Whittaker look-alike) or the more innocent Tracey Vaughan, then any silly exams. Still, I worked hard on the Maths lead up, and gained myself a CSE Grade 1.The statistics were a nightmare, but not only for us, but also for Mrs. Bannerman, the teacher who’d taken on the task of teaching us. The girly swot of the class was the only one who did any good, gaining a grade ‘E’ (seriously poor fail), whilst the rest of us just skimmed in under the radar all getting grade ‘U’ for unclassified. We all did so poorly, the mark was immeasurable. I seem to remember the English exam was to tell a story from your childhood, even though at that point technically I was still a child. I told the story of my first day in school, and came away with a grade C. Finally, I had a physics exam along with 3 others. I do remember the exam was exceptionally difficult, and struggled all the way through. I got a grade ‘D’, but I wasn’t bothered at the point.
So, a year later, and the new fangled GCSEs were rolled out. In my mock exams the Christmas before, I’d done exceptionally well in my Physics. 2 of the class had got grade ‘B’s, and I still remember to this day my Physics teacher (an inspiration to my life now) telling us in front of the class, “You can either work hard for the next 6 months and get an A, or you can doss about and get a C.” I never went again. I got a ‘C’. More interestingly were the other coursework related exams. I failed my English miserably, getting a grade ‘E’ (the equivalent of a CSE grade 3), I scraped through my Maths, gaining a grade ‘C’, more surprisingly (and also because the coursework was done in school) I gained my one and only A in Art.
Now last night I got to watch a documentary on children today doing O levels from the 1950s. They all failed in the O levels miserably. The final score out of some 30 children were 13 passes when considering they all did 5 exams is a truly pathetic score. They then got their real GCSE results, all gaining grades A* to Bs.
It says a lot for the deficiencies in education today.
I did it again.
The thunderstorm that swept through my area on Wednesday evening was spectacular. With the opportunity to use my digital camera to catch the lightning, the vista from my backgarden to actually see it from a long way away, and the lack of rain before the storm arrived, I settled down to get some good shots. I settled for these 3 shots, and when the local news asked people to send in their photos, I emailed them all three hoping the last one of the purple lightning would be shown. Still beggars can’t be choosers, and they settled for the ‘anvil’ shot of the cloud. See it here.
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