School Days Sophia Waugh

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

For the past two years, I’ve been mark­ing GCSE English Lit­er­a­ture pa­pers. Af­ter the first year, I swore never to do it again, but didn’t con­cen­trate un­til too late and found my­self at it this year, por­ing over scanned pa­pers of il­leg­i­ble writ­ing.

Although the ac­tual work is fairly grim, there are ad­van­tages to it. You al­ways have your own stu­dents in mind – so your ex­pec­ta­tions of their out­comes is shifted al­most on an hourly ba­sis in com­par­i­son with the stu­dents you are mark­ing.

Re­mem­ber that we teach­ers have no clearly de­fined idea of what the new grades look like. The fi­nal re­sults de­pend on the per­for­mance of the whole co­hort – thou­sands upon thou­sands of chil­dren. So if, when mark­ing, you feel every­one is do­ing poorly, you up your ex­pec­ta­tions of your best stu­dents and feel a lit­tle more hope­ful for the bor­der­line cases. Ex­cept they never be­come ‘cases’ – such a hor­ri­ble, clin­i­cal word. Last year, I had a very good top set and, be­tween them, they achieved a good col­lec­tion of the elu­sive 9s (the equiv­a­lent of an A**) and 8s.

This year, I have had two sets – both weaker. And of those stu­dents, there is one for whom I have been praying hard.

A grade 4, equiv­a­lent roughly to a low C, is now the stan­dard stu­dents need to en­ter any form of fur­ther qual­i­fi­ca­tion – ap­pren­tice­ships etc. A grade 5 – high C/ low B – is what those who go on to do A-lev­els need. This par­tic­u­lar stu­dent is pre­dicted a 3. She is dyslexic, finds English dif­fi­cult and needs her hand hold­ing. For the first term or so of our ac­quain­tance, she was mouthy and dif­fi­cult, ob­streper­ous and rude.

For some rea­son, she then switched and, for the rest of our two years to­gether, worked harder than any stu­dent I have ever met in 17 years of teach­ing. In a class with some very badly be­haved chil­dren, she man­aged to block them out and keep her head down. Her fa­ther, she told me, can­not read or write; I won­der whether he was also se­ri­ously dyslexic and no one no­ticed it when he was at school.

There was a chance that she could get her 4, and, oddly, I thought she was more likely to get it in Lit­er­a­ture (per­ceived as harder) than Lan­guage. The themes, the char­ac­ters and the quo­ta­tions were all em­bed­ded in her brain, thanks to her dili­gence. The Lan­guage pa­pers, where stu­dents are given un­seen texts to an­a­lyse, were more dif­fi­cult for her. I found my­self dream­ing about her and her re­sults. She is not a ‘case’.

Yet ev­ery time I marked a pa­per at the lower end of the scale, I found my­self com­par­ing her work with what was in front of me. Ev­ery time I opened up a pa­per where noth­ing had been writ­ten at all (there were lots), I breathed a sigh of re­lief for two rea­sons – £5.20 was earned in 20 sec­onds, and my stu­dent was shoved higher in the rank­ings. Then I re­mem­bered the blank pa­per be­longed to a stu­dent an­other teacher had wept blood over, and I re­mem­bered my­self.

I’ve just seen my stu­dent’s re­sults: 4 in Lit­er­a­ture and Lan­guage. Def­i­nitely not ‘a case’.

‘Yeah, you’re a bad boy’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.