Things I Wish Were Different About Teaching: Number 10 That students were allowed to fail exams if they really were that shit

At the moment, results are treated like educational currency and the sole measure of success in schools. It makes sense on the surface: teachers are in the business of exams, results and academic achievement, so that’s how they should be judged.

The reality with that is that if a student, particularly in FE and with coursework, is set to fail, the teacher has to either pick up after them, or take the consequences of that failure themselves. Students can’t really fail: they either get the work done for them before it gets to that stage, or, the teacher takes the hit, having their progression at work stunted, receiving a poor performance review and potentially losing their job.

Students always think they have another chance: if they forget a deadline, they will get an extension, if they fail an exam, they can resit next year, and if they can’t get a job then they can live off the state. There’s just no consequences of failure for them, so why try to succeed when trying is hard?

Can you imagine if students were allowed to fail and take the full consequences of that? To leave them with no progression route, and no chance of employment, and to see other students who have achieved having those things?

There wouldn’t be many of them that actually failed in my opinion, but there would be more than there are now. Most importantly, teachers will stop being held responsible for a student’s poor choices.

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