Wednesday 5 August 2009

Exams and holidays

August is the month of 'news' items about examination results and where the Great British public decides to take its holidays.
It's the same every year. For the exam slot a few nervous teenagers are rounded up and plonked in front of a presenter with a microphone and a camera man. They are asked the routine questions:-
1: What are your predicted grades?
2: What are you planning to do in the future?
3: How confident are you?
The teenagers answer modestly and articulately knowing that later on in the piece they will be quizzed about their results. Sometimes they have to open the results envelopes on camera. The questions now are:-
1: Did you get your predicted grades?
2: Are you pleased/disappointed? (depending on the first answer)
3: What are you planning to do next?
I wonder how the participants are selected. Is there an in-depth interview with the head teacher, year heads, subject specialists so that the students most likely to be successful are chosen? Does the presenter ask for volunteers? This would be a potentially dangerous approach given the volatility and unpredictability of some young people. Are the teenagers primed? They must be for never a swear word is heard on-screen though there is quite a lot of mild blasphemy which seems to go unchecked these days. (Can blasphemy ever be mild? Sounding really grouchy and puritanical here!)
Whatever the process the interviews proceed smilingly, some disappointed youngsters maintaining a stoical approach.
Today it was Scottish Highers results. Later on we will have a repeat performance with different participants for GCSEs and then A-levels. So far we seem to have been spared AS-level results or have they finally been abolished? Education spins round more frequently than a tumble-dryer and if one waits long enough abandoned theories and practices surface again rebranded and shiny.
Following that, viewers were treated to shivering presenters eating ice-creams on deserted windy beaches as the subject of holidays was posed. Apparently the recession is causing more Britons to take their holidays in these damp but beautiful islands. The word that has been coined for this phenomenon is 'STAYCATION' - get it? Clever isn't it? We now have yet another lazy shorthand way of expressing an idea - it will be thrashed to death in the media and no doubt will appear in the OED in years to come. I know language evolves and it is essential that it should but some new vocabulary really should be strangled at birth.
While the worthy, entirely predictable subject of tourism in Britain and the revenue it brings was being explored there were information strips running along the bottom of the screen. These give bullet points of news relating to the subject on-screen. One in particular caught my attention: '13% of Britons have in a staycation' Who prepares the information banners? Was s/he not thinking as the words were typed in or perhaps the person relaying the information was not enunciating clearly. I suppose it doesn't matter as the authors of these snippets are anonymous.


  1. Hi Janice, I do keep trying to post comments, but keep getting it wrong! Hope this one will find you. I have long suspected that they keep lowering the pass level for the exams. There was a documentary series on TV about a year ogo, about the way school used to be in the 1950's and 60's. The pupils taking part found the exams they were asked to sit were way beyond their level, and yet they had achieved quite good grades by the 'modern' standards.
    I get quite angry at the lack of standards we witness each day. We have two teachers living nextdoor to us, and they say that the pupils are generally bored stiff at school these days! Ooops, my teachers would have had the hide off of me for such a comment!
    I shall try to post this now, and hope it reaches you.
    Best wishes, Sylvia

  2. Success, Sylvia! Teachers have always had to have some acting ability but now have to compete with far more entertaining and immediate stimuli . . . :-{


Thank you for visiting. I love to read your comments and really appreciate you taking the time to respond to posts.

I will always try to repay your visit whenever possible.