Wide debate needed over exam system

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From: John G Davies, Alma Terrace, East Morton, Keighley.

THE attempt of Ofqual’s Glenys Stacey to blame teachers for the English GCSE fiasco only serves to highlight the incompetence of this body and the examination companies.

Teachers are human beings with a variety of characteristics, some are strict, others are lenient; some are more error prone than others and so on. Any half decent exam system has techniques to deal with this type of variation.

Back in the 1970s days of CSEs, an entirely teacher-run exam, strict markers were paired with lenient ones to agree on grades. A third, experienced individual then checked the overall quality.

This crisis has been caused by political meddling; the myth of “grade inflation” and “dumbing down” peddled by elitist commentators, who cannot imagine that students are better prepared than they were and teachers understand the processes of teaching and learning better than theirs did. Commentators who find their champion in Michael Gove.

Just as there are multiple factors in the 100m record dropping to 9.58sec, such as better tracks, shoes, as well as better nutrition, training and psychological preparation, so there are a variety of things that contribute to exam grade improvement, none of them dishonest. Would athletics be improved by returning to grass tracks and leather shoes?

Rather than the dogmatic and nostalgic impositions of the new national curriculum and eBac, we need an honest debate about the subjects and standards required in the modern world, as well as how they should be examined. This debate should involve all interested parties, industry, the arts, schools and universities.

Convoy heroes deserve medal

From: Peter Johnston, Angram Road, Long Marston, York.

IT is not only this Government but successive governments since the war that have displayed no interest whatsoever in funding a memorial to those who perished on the Arctic Convoys let alone those who sailed on them and had the good fortune to return.

In July of this year, my sister and I laid wreaths on the waters off north west Iceland to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the sinking of six ships of convoy QP 13 where our father, along with many others, lost his life. While in Iceland we visited memorials to the arctic convoys in Isafjordur and Reykjavik, both financed by the Russians.

On returning to the UK we went up to Loch Ewe, which was often a starting and finishing place for many of the convoys, to find that the memorial there had also been financed by the Russians.

It is clear that the Russians have been truly grateful for the sacrifices made by our sailors on those treacherous trips up to Murmansk and the Government should now, before its too late, change the rules on acceptance of foreign awards so that the few that are left can pass away knowing that their participation in “the worst journey in the world” has been rewarded by a medal personal to them.

Dawn of era 
of prosperity

From: JD Billcliffe, Wellin Lane, Edwalton, Nottingham.

ONE thing I’ve noticed in politics over the last 50 years or so is that the Opposition always has the answers. Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Co tell us that they have the solution to our present problems (despite having been in a government that delivered the greatest fiscal shambles in living memory).

During the Brown terror, the Conservatives and Lib Dems in Opposition knew what was wrong and what needed to be done to put it right; and yet now they have become the Government they don’t seem to be able to hack it.

Might I, therefore, suggest a new constitutional convention: that the government of the day (of whatever colour) will only legislate and adopt policies as advised by the Opposition. Thus the country would benefit from the wisdom of those who always seem to know best and a new era of prosperity would dawn.

Appreciating the facts

From: Maxwell Laurie, Victoria Terrace, Cockfield, County Durham.

ARE the charity commissioners to be beatified for their revelation of miracles or are they and their advisers to be dismissed for inability to appreciate facts?

The word “couple” comes from the Latin for “sexual union”; therefore homosexual friends cannot be a couple. Partners perhaps, but not a couple. The agency Catholic Care (Yorkshire Post, November 3) clearly understands the difference or would probably be the first to press from the commissioners’ beatification.

The aptitude of male homosexual friends for child rearing is beyond question? Can the Commissioners truly imagine Elton John explaining menstruation to an adopted daughter or his friend telling the girl about pregnancy joys or childbirth pains? The poor commissioners stand much in need of charity.