Letters: Exam marking

Enough, it's hatchet time for Ofqual

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The Independent Online

Enough is enough. The GCSE English fiasco sends a stark warning to Mr. Gove. Our ailing economy is in dire and immediate need of robust qualifications. It's hatchet time.

Ofqual and the three examining boards should be given notice. In their place Mr Gove should set up a single, arms-length, government-funded agency to examine GCSE (if we really must keep it) and A-levels (or ideally their replacement) in England.

The remit would include rigour, maintenance of standards through norm-referencing and relevance to the world of work.

With administration cut by two-thirds, cartloads of money could be saved. Furthermore, freed from examination fees (a massive cost to the taxpayer), school budgets could be substantially cut.

And even more money could be saved if GCSE was replaced by internal assessment; with children set to leave school at 18, its sell-by date has surely come.

David Smith

Clyro, Powys

Successive governments' obsession with "standards" caused by a range of individual ministers' determination to enhance their reputations on the back of "raising" those standards, has served to change the thinking of teachers, headteachers and parents about what goes on in our classrooms.

The National Curriculum and its assessment, rather than being a source of structure and support for pupil learning, has been turned into a measurement device to measure coverage. Pupils are expected to accrete "levels" and/or grades so that schools can be held accountable for progress against politically invented "standards".

This race for grades does not take into account the complexity of individuals' learning styles, with necessary regressions as well as progressions.

This process has produced the exam fiasco as it inevitably was destined to do when education handed its philosophy over to grading rather than learning.

Professor Bill Boyle

School of Education, University of Manchester

Glenys Stacey of Ofqual gives the credit for her CCSE debacle to an algorithm. If the same algorithm were applied to the triumphs of Andy Murray and the Olympic Games, no doubt both would be categorised as disastrous failures.

Algorithims are subject to the universal rule of computers: garbage in, garbage out.

Ken Creffield

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Public-sector pension truths

The Steve Richards article (11 September), "Strike threats show just how out of touch the unions now are" really was too much. He tells of friends in their early fifties "with public-sector pensions so generous that I cannot compete with their lifestyles".

Only 1.95 per cent of public-sector pensioners get a pension in excess of £25,000 per annum. The average public-sector pension is £7,000. To imply that public-sector pensioners generally live a lifestyle of "foreign holidays, recommended lavish restaurants, enjoying the theatres and good wine" is just untrue.

R W Scott


Hefty charges

Three cheers for Sarah Millican and her stand against excessive booking charges (13 September). I took my granddaughter to see Top Hat at London's Aldwych. The tickets cost £38, service charge £4, venue facility fee £2 and processing fee £2.50, total £46.50. How can such charges be justified?

M Mazower

London NW11

Don't bet on it

I am a great admirer of Stephen Brenkley as a cricket writer; maybe not so as a racing tipster. When he writes ("England in disarray ...", 13 September) about the uncertainties surrounding Kevin Pietersen, is he really advising readers "not to hedge any bets"? That's not the same as keeping your money in your pocket, which I hope Stephen is doing.

Chris Sladen

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

A real puzzle

Standards are falling in your Games and Puzzles department. "Pashto language (7) "was the clue supplied for 6 down in the Concise Crossword on 10 September. The answer supplied the next day was "Afghani". There is no such language. Pashto, on the other hand, is widely spoken in Afghanistan.

Ken Cohen

London NW6

To sell, or not to...

Whether Richard III's mortal remains are identified in a car park or not, his spirit lives on in a commercial field in a way I feel sure he would approve. An outdoor-activities store in Stratford on Avon recently evoked his legacy with their slogan, "Now is the discount of our winter tents".

Christopher Martin

Kington Langley, Wiltshire

'Hillsborough' warning about Old Trafford

I see that a year before the disaster, the FA did not acknowledge receipt of a letter warning them about crowd safety at Hillsborough and could not find it.

Well, perhaps they could cut out this letter and pin it on a wall in their office: there will be another disaster if they do not address the issue of standing at all-seater stadiums, especially at the front of the higher stands on the second and third tiers, such as at Old Trafford.

I believe that fans should be able to stand at matches, but in designated and properly designed areas. The FA and the clubs seem to have given up on the issue. Too costly, no doubt. I pray that I am wrong in my prediction but there will no hiding-place for the men in suits if, God forbid, I am right.

Colin Burke


What sticks in my mind about Hillsborough was being told by ordinary coppers that day that fast-stream graduate entrants were largely responsible for the deaths. They simply lacked the basic policing experience to control crowds and direct officers where they were needed.

The so-called fast-stream system, whereby middle-class graduates automatically make sergeant after two years and inspector after four years, continues to produce a generation of ineffectual senior officers. They are very good at sounding clever in front of Home Secretaries and their fast-stream advisers, but rarely have the knowledge of a good, traditionally beat-experienced sergeant.

Whether it is Hillsborough, the Jill Dando murder enquiry, or the recent anti-capitalist demos, fast-stream graduates are continually failing to give the leadership necessary to do their jobs. If the Home Secretary really wants to make her mark, she should abolish the system in all three 999 services and go back to "through the ranks" promotions only.

Chris Youett


You picture a mounted policeman about to strike a defenceless bystander with his baton (13 September). The picture was taken at Orgreave Coking Plant, during the miners' strike of 1984.

It was at Orgreave that the police decided to teach the miners a lesson. The mounted police charged the assembled picket and their supporters, driving the crowd into an enclosed residential area where they beat them with their truncheons. There was no distinction between the sexes: men, women and bystanders were beaten mercilessly.

The miners responded with a hail of stones, but when the BBC reported the incident that night the sequence was reversed so that it appeared that the police were responding to the miners.

It took the government of the day a year to break the strike with the help of the police and the media.

Paul Pettit

Windsor, Berkshire

I was disappointed to read the comments of Pete Barrett from Colchester (letters, 14 September) over Hillsborough. What he sees as a "search for scapegoats" we in Liverpool see as a simple demand for the truth to be recognised.

We have always known that football spectators were not to blame in any way for the disaster; it is good that the rest of the country now knows that to be true, even if it is 23 years too late.

Alex Strickland


Deadly rioting is against Islam

It is right to condemn protests in Muslim countries against the American film seen as offensive by Muslims. Islam prohibits the killing of innocent civilians regardless of their faith and allows Muslims to fight only against those who attack Muslims.

This implies that the attack on the American envoy in Libya was wrong. But it is worth mentioning that many Muslims find the film industry in America inconsiderate of Muslim feelings, with films that are defamatory, giving an unfairly negative picture about Islam that incites hatred against Muslims.

Mohammed Samaana


Are Allah's teachings really so shallow that they can be threatened by a 10th-rate American video? Is Allah's status really so feeble that it has to be "defended" by arson and murder?

It seems to me that it is a stupid minority of rioting Muslims who are insulting the Prophet by their desperate and faithless response to this pitiable film.

Simon Molloy

London E8

Anger and disgust at topless photos

I, like most British citizens, am angry and disgusted by the French magazine's decision to publish the photographs of Kate on holiday in France. I am disgusted with the attitude of the female editor of the magazine who could not see anything wrong with her decision. Have the French got so short a memory that they forget how William's mother "Diana" was driven to her death in Paris?

I hope and wish that our PM demands a full apology from his opposite number in France and that something is done to the magazine and in particular the editor who gave the OK to publish these photos.

Brian McDonald


So The Independent thinks that publishing the photos of the Duchess of Cambridge topless was an invasion of privacy for which "there is no public interest defence" (Leading article, 15 September).

It would be interesting to know, then, what your public interest justification is for saturation coverage of this story, complete (as was also the case with Prince Harry) with helpful hints about where the photographs might be found.

Kate Francis


The French cut off the heads of their monarchs and consequently are reduced to photographing ours. The French need to do away with their republic and reinstate their own monarchy, to give their press something useful to do.

Martin London

Henllan, Denbighshire