Examinations – Pass or Fail

It’s that time of year when countless students prepar to sit examinations of one kind or another: GCSEs, A Levels, end of year exams. My 12 year old grandson has just completed a week of intensive exams. He is relieved that is was all in one week, but I can’t remember doing anything like that at his age. Is he too young? Is it right that there is less course work and more formal testing?

Examinations were always a regular feature of College life. In 1854 students who failed their first year examinations had to re-sit. Typical examination questions included:

Geography: Explain the geographical allusion in Psalm cxxxvi 5; ‘Turn our captivity, O Lord,as the rivers of the South’.

Scripture: Give dates for the following events – The Deluge;The Passage of the Jordan;The Death of Abraham. Fortunately, arithmetic questions were more straightforward, such as – reduce fractions to their simplest form.

In the 1900s, students dreaded practical teaching exams known as ‘Major Day Crits’. Children were taken to the College from local Salisbury schools and the anxious students had to present a lesson in front of fellow student critics and a lecturer. After the lesson there was 30 minutes of critical discussion and assessment before the student was given a grade, which counted towards their final result. A treat at the end was a slice of a special ‘Major’ cake which must have tasted so good!.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the feeling of relief when exams are over- that is, until the results are published.

Island magic!

Anne and I are currently exploring the links between the College and the Channel Islands. Salisbury was the ‘college of choice’ for many island students from the 1900s onwards and unpicking the reasons is a fascinating business. BBC Radio Jersey interviewed us a couple of weeks ago – no, they didn’t pay for us to fly over – nothing as prestigious as that, but we switched one of our mobs onto ‘speaker phone’,  sat at the kitchen table and talked … (we’re getting quite good at that!). Our next port of call was the JEP (Jersey Evening Post) a daily paper that is almost compulsory reading for islanders. Good news there is that Inspired to Teach will be featured in an issue in a week’s time.  As you can see, we’re doing our very best to reach out to people whose forebears took the big step of leaving their island homes, crossing the sea and training at Salisbury.

Don’t under estimate this step. If you live on a small island, it becomes your world and the sea that divides you from the mainland is a huge barrier. This still remains true today and in the past was even more so.  One develops an island mentality.  My family and I lived in Jersey for 15 years and by the end of our time there we even thought twice before going to St Ouen, all of 5 miles away, for the afternoon. For students whose families were deeply rooted in the island, going to college in England was (and still is for some, even today) a significant challenge. Anne and I want to contact people who had relatives in Jersey (or Guernsey) who trained at Salisbury and to discover more about their experiences. When we arrived in Jersey in 1977 I went to some of the Jersey Club meetings and met other former Salisbury students. How I wish I’d written down their memories!  (Memo – record things before they are lost!)