Too Testing or Exam Time Again

By Nina, a supply teacher in Plymouth

Pressure, they say, is just the shadow of a great opportunity. However watching primary pupils line up outside the test room looks akin to taking their first steps on to the gang- plank of the Titanic. Further up the school system our A’ Level pupils, whilst more aware of what they enter into, have a journey to complete which has the potential consequences of a Challenger Disaster.

Examination periods can be a quiet time for supply as schools cancel courses, drag any poorly colleagues out of their sickbeds and teachers come forth to support their pupils. Students, whom they have tried hard to learn to love and taught them everything they know, will hopefully show off their vast knowledge: in particular to just read the question properly.

Despite the swarms of staff hovering about to keep pupils calm and answer any last minute concerns, it is still known that there is the odd surprise before any test. For example, last year it was the normally quiet Quintin picking a fight with what emerges is his lifelong enemy Antony: their tears made the carpet virtually a safety hazard. This year, it was a football through an enormous classroom window during a playground football match during break time. And each and every year, there is a threefold loss of pencils, rulers and erasers, despite the strict issue of stationary items by Ms. Military.

Once sat down ready to go, there is a sense of anticipation, a feeling we can only do our best and knowing that it is now or never. The clichés go immediately when we teachers wonder what examiner thinks a non-fiction piece on the igneous rocks will engage most eleven year olds, or that sixteen year olds really enjoy analysing histograms about typical waiting times at a dentist. Pupils do their best though, it must be said, and there will be a flurry of writing and rubbing out in equal measure for 45 minutes.

Whatever words that might have softened the reality: assessment, mock, practice paper, internally marked, we all know the score. Well we do, it’s the students who don’t have a clue, which is good as they have 101 more exams to do that week. “It wasn’t too bad,” or “It went alright,” are typical comments on leaving the exam centre. Some pupils might reflect on the odd question they got wrong “Ahhhh…. It was 76 mpg not 67 mph,” but most leave with the rush of relief that they are out of that room and free once more!

It will be staff left to peek at their wrong answers and that sinking feeling as they mark ‘But we went over this last week/term Tyrone!’ Please be mindful of our colleagues in tiny primary schools or secondary departments who have to admit that ‘But we’ve been doing this for the last seven years Yasmin!’ No doubt young people, staff and parents will all be glad revision and exam season is soon over and that they can get on with something perhaps a little less testing?