Standards – Dead as a Dodo

A Biology Teacher's Lament

Biology Standards Multiple Choice

  1. Which exam is a greater test of overall rounded ability?
    1. A three hour exam with essay questions covering broad areas of the syllabus that students must explain and discuss from revised knowledge and understanding
    2. A one hour modular exam involving gap fill questions and short answer question that can be endlessly resat
    3. A one hour modular exam involving gap fill questions and short answer questions with most of the information contained in the question that can be endlessly resat
  1. Which exam is likely to produce able Biology researchers?
    1. A practical exam that tests a range of taught skills in a one off objective measure of ability, prepared for by extensive candidate practice and revision of techniques, incorporating statistical analysis without supplied formulas
    2. A practical exam that is internally assessed involving prepared single tasks sent out to all centres by the exam board, designed to test ability at a single standardised curriculum  aspect relative to the average student
    3. A coursework exercise that tests the candidates ability to meet prescribed criteria with several rewrites and support notes freely available, plus comparison model answers available on the internet
  1. Which syllabus is likely to inspire a passion and interest in the natural world for its own sake?
    1. An intensive study of life cycles, body systems and ecology of a wide range of animals and plants, incorporating top to bottom analysis from the level of the community to the level of the cell, but requiring detailed knowledge of different examples from every biome on planet earth
    2. A flight over the scientific landscape, pausing to touch on ephemeral knowledge of different systems, with a bit of ecology tagged on as fieldwork and looking at stuff under microscopes
    3. A human centred study of main body organs of mammals, heart dissection to entertain, seemingly endless “genetic engineering” and “health issues” discussion, with lashings of state propaganda dressed up as objective research on bad lifestyle habits and poverty in the world
  1. Which of the following is the best use of a Biology teacher’s limited time and resources?
    1. Study of the subject to update knowledge and enhance student experience by trialling novel practical work and organising external trips for a small number of engaged and motivated students
    2. Writing effective lesson plans with fully differentiated OFSTED friendly outcomes to ensure that no child is left behind and that the SMART targets are always met
    3. Writing action plans and course development reviews to ensure that all social, cultural, racial and gender issues are covered effectively by the Biology A level syllabus


Mostly As: You are an antiquated dinosaur completely out of touch with modern society and its inclusive agenda. You will be slowly edged out of the profession by brave new “excellence for all” criteria unless you agree to jump first or take early underpaid retirement.

Mostly Bs: You are an effective modern practitioner, destined for promotion at the earliest possible moment despite any problems caused by negative staff or bored complaining students. You fulfil all your objectives and all the students are under no illusions as they complete all the expected syllabus tasks to the best of their ability. You are the king and queen of “value added”.

Mostly Cs: You are in possession of the truth regarding the real purpose of education in the 21st century, despite the traditionalist wishes of parents and teachers. Only the “dog in the manger attitude” of the teaching profession stands in the way of you as you build the new educational Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.

The writer has recently left the state sector on a mission to reveal more in good time.  

P.Harris, July 2007

/Campaign for Real Education.


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