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English

A levels – isn’t it wonderful that teenagers will pass or fail in three hours?

The Government has announced A levels are changing. Qualifications will now be based solely upon the ability to pass or fail within a three-hour window of time after two years’ of study.

A mum's view of changes to the A level

The Government wants students to pass A levels through examination only.

When I’m writing for anyone else, I would write about this dispassionately, reporting the matter and canvassing the points of view of others. However, here in my blogging space I can talk as an ex-A level student and as a mother of a teenager.

For me this decision is a dreadful backward step.

 

Let’s not sugar coat this – it’s also a way of lowering the number of people who go into higher education.

It reminds me of a cartoon I saw on Facebook this week, shared by a teacher, showing various animals standing in front of a desk where a teacher was telling them that their pass depended on their ability to climb the tree behind them. The animals included a monkey, an elephant, a bird, a fish….you get the idea. It sweetly encapsulated the problems of examinations when I was doing my O and A levels in the 1980s.

The truth is, we are not all the same and we excel in different areas and that’s how life is. I firmly believe the pressure of an examination is good and I advocate them – but I also believe equal weight should go to course work over the years which shows a level of consistency of achievement, or not, as the case may be.

For me that’s a fairer reflection of someone’s true ability. 

 

In my days  in the sixth form, I loved my studies and I worked very hard. I consistently got As and Bs in my work and that was the expectation for my final examinations. But I knew I wasn’t good at examinations. I found the pressure difficult to manage, I found revision overhwhelming, trying to cover everything all of the time. I didn’t know where to start and went for a scattergun approach. It didn’t work.

My fears were realised when I just about scraped through my A levels. I didn’t fail but I didn’t do well enough to go to a university in the country at that time.

Ironically there was an examination at that time called an S level – higher than an A level. It was in English literature and involved three questions, and you could take texts in with you. I was the only one in my school who took it, a week after all the other examinations had finished. Everyone was demob happy and I still had another exam to do.

Armed with my Complete Works of Shakespeare and Complete Works of Chaucer, I didn’t worry about that one, because I could take the texts in and I knew I could find quotations really quickly. Got a distinction in that exam – with a D in the A level itself.

I did a degree at a college of higher education where coursework counted towards your final result and I did learn how to revise more effectively. But from then on, any test or examination I have done, has involved assessment on the job alongside high pressure tests. For me, that’s more real.

I have a daughter who is like me. I can now see myself reflected in the way she studies and I’m trying to help her be more effective than me. It pains me to think that she may, just may, be disadvantaged in 2018 if she goes on to do A levels. Will she, like me, fail to deliver because her opportunity will come and go within three hours?

What kind of message does this give our children?

 

Do you have a website? Save your cookies? You MUST take action!

How many times have you seen the word ‘cookie’ in relation to computers, websites and the internet and just don’t have a clue what it means – in fact, don’t even care?

It’s just one of those terms which us technophobes skim over and ignore, accepting that it’s something technical and we don’t need to think about.

COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES! From January 1 2012, if you’ve got a website, for business or personal use, and it uses cookies for gathering data – YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS.

Cookies are not only lovely biscuits which are often horribly addictive – they are also pieces of code which attach themselves to your computer when you click on certain websites. I think that’s a good way to describe it. Please feel free to comment and provide a better description.

These cookies can gather data about you, how you navigate a website, where your interests lie – all of which is useful data for a company which is trying to effectively market to consumers or where a company or individual wants to know great detail about the amount of traffic coming to their site.

A new EU law comes into force on January 1 which means all  websites using cookies in this way in Europe MUST give a warning about their use PRIOR TO THE WEBSITE LOADING. If you don’t have this facility, you will be breaking the law and you risk a fine.

Think of it this way. When you use your mobile to ring an 08000 number or a similar number, you often get that message which says ‘if you continue with this call, it will cost 7p a minute so hang up if you don’t want to pay’ etc. I always hang up and switch to a landline.

This is a similar warning – which must be visually  displayed before cookies are downloaded, which happens very quickly once you’ve clicked on a website of interest. The aim is to provide further safeguards around privacy on the web.

Personally I don’t mind that some sites use cookies to find out general things about me – maybe I’m naive. But I guess there are many people out there who do mind and don’t’ want websites to know who you are the next time you visit etc. Oh and by the way, WordPress blogs like this do use cookies – so we here at Mellow Media need to take note alongside everyone else.

This law actually came into force in other European countries in May but the UK government delayed it here because it felt that it had not been widely publicised. I think the Government was right in that assumption. For most of us, we’ve never even heard of this EU cookie law and potentially we’re all walking into a trap.

But we can offer a solution which will not cost loadsa money. Is this a bit of shameless marketing? Yes, it is – let’s be upfront. One of our clients, Sarah Arrow, founder of Birds On The Blog, has designed a legal WordPress plug-in to do the job for you.

The key issue is that the message MUST BE DISPLAYED before a website loads – so be aware of products which give a warning too late – apparently that’s the difficult bit for technical designers to get right.

Does your website use cookies? You will probably be needing to read this blog then!.....

We don’t often recommend something unless it’s something we truly think is useful. This new EU law (which the UK government could in the fullness of time and when it’s got its head round more pressing matters, find a way around), has the potential to cost small business people a lot of money.

Sarah has a cheaper solution which gets around this problem, and we are more than happy to help her publicise it . A WordPress plug-in  – for details visit the pithily titled website (!) www.eucookielawwpplugin.co.uk

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