Monday, 30 June 2008

Gaining Marks for Obscenities

Pupils are gaining marks for writing obscenities in their GCSE English exams even it has nothing to do with the question.
A pupil who wrote “f*** off” has been given marks for correct spelling and successfully conveying meaning. More marks would have been given if he had put an exclamation mark after it, as this shows a grasp of very basic grammar.Peter Buckroyd, the chief examiner of English for the AQA - Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners. He has instructed other examiners to mark in the same way adhering strictly to the mark scheme, to the extent that pupils who write only expletives on their papers should be awarded marks. 2 marks, out of a possible 27, where given for the 2- word expletive.

As a marker of English papers myself, I do understand the idiosyncrasies of working to the criteria of a mark scheme and the difficulties of finding the "best fit" to mark positively and constructively.I do not however, see how the context was met, in this case, when the "question" was "Describe the room you are in." This 2 word statement /demand/order, neither describes the room nor is effective in it's expression. Perhaps if the response had been "This room is ****ing awful " then a degree of relevance could be attributed. But to credit 2 words with correct spelling in this instance is totally inappropriate and to say that that it demonstrates “some simple sequencing of ideas” and “some words in appropriate order” is positively ludicrous and an insult to the students who have shown their language skills by their appropriate responses.
What a fine example Mr Buckroyd is showing of the English language and is uses.

It's seems to me rather like admiring the child who shouts abuse to someone in the street and agreeing with the PCSO who pats them on the head and thinks "children will be children ".