Sometimes in education you need a moment of reflection that makes you realise how far the profession has come and how much change has occurred (I hasten most but not exclusively good change over the years). On Tuesday I had a moment of realisation about how far standards expected had come in language teaching over the years when, during a learning walk, I came across a Year 9 class learning the French vocabulary for unemployment – chômage – and I was drawn back to my own time at school and whether we had to learn such complex language. I have always admitted to appreciating traveling and absorbing other cultures, and I have regularly travelled in France, and as such I have enough knowledge of the language to get by. I can read and listen fairly well, but pronunciation has always been my flaw. However, I can honestly say that the level of vocabulary now expected to get students through their GCSEs has grown in complexity inexorably. As the students practised their language and vocabulary in the room, I was thoroughly impressed by their desire to tackle complex vocabulary, and challenge each other to improve – although personally I was left wondering how I would actually cope with the demands and rigours of the new GCSEs!
The year 11 students this year have face the challenges of the exams with courage and conviction in a climate of uncertainty about grade boundaries and marking criteria, but (as I said to a Year 11 student yesterday who I was mentoring), be glad of the volume of exams you face compared to the current Year 10; that year group face far more, far longer, and far more difficult final exams in virtually all subjects. The education landscape, in terms of qualifications, is changing.
Having said that, high quality will always prevail; whilst the 2nd day of the 2nd cohort is still underway, the work produced by the GCSE Art students has been tremendous. The problem with looking at final pieces in Art (as non-Art teacher), is that as well as judging the quality of art work, you also find yourself thinking that would like nice in my office/front room etc. The variety of mediums and styles that Ms Johnson has encouraged from the students is exceptional, as are their end products. I have seen schools where the students are pushed in a certain direction to ensure consistency, but the creativity and diversity in the two classes is phenomenal.
Enjoy the weekend.