Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Results

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Getting Results

Article excerpt

How do you take yours? Results, I mean. Some people will try to tell you that school is more than just a vast, gruelling computer game where you collect coins that unlock doors to the next level. And they're right, but it's also that.

The only people who try to tell other people that getting high grades is a frivolous aim tend to be those who either a) already possess them, or b) hold the economic and social capital to withstand their lack. For everyone else, results day is a 12-hour heart attack, as a cartel of exam boards make balloon animals with your duodenum. Results day: sponsored by Armitage Shanks.

Back when the Tories enjoyed their last extended period of unopposed rule, I remember my own results day. They arrived by post, which probably seems impossibly retro to today's enfants de demain. The letter woke me as it landed on the mat and I went back to sleep; getting up with the birds wouldn't change the grade on the page. It allowed me a few hours of being Schrödinger's student: my grades were neither good nor bad, but simultaneously both or neither, or all grades at once.

For some time, teachers have been able to log in the night before and peek at the results. That never seemed right to me - like a moral robbery from the people who stand to lose or gain most from the information - so I never took advantage of it.

For a teacher, results are no longer an exercise in impartial analysis. Since performance-related pay, since Big Data and Little Data moved in, since accountability systems that inhabit and surround us like oxygen, results are our currency. They're our passports, a Willy Wonka golden ticket or an albatross. …

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