Richard Ord: Why GCSE exams should be held in winter

Summer! Could they pick a worse time of year than the summer to hold exams?

Brad in the sun
Brad in the sun

Our 16-year-old son, Bradley, is up to eyes in revision in readiness for the GCSEs that will, in theory, shape his future.

And when I say ‘up to his eyes’, I mean his eyes are involved in the process, though I’ve yet to see them looking over any text books.

I do, however, appreciate it’s obviously a time of great stress and concern. Not for him, but for his parents. His mother, in particular.

Every stage of his life has been scrutinised, assessed and acted upon by his mother.

In the past we have had huge family inquests into his ability, or not, to use a knife and fork, as if his struggle to cut a carrot at four years old would somehow impact on his career choices in later life.

She’s fretted about his development at every stage of his life. His GCSE exams have brought all her neuroses to a head.

Our Bradley, at 16, I’m pleased to say, can cut a carrot. When it comes to revision, however, he can’t cut the mustard.

I can usually tell just by looking into his eyes how well he’s coping with pressure.

At the moment, his eyes are hidden behind sunglasses. That in itself probably speak volumes about the stress he’s feeling.

Many children are floored by the pressure of exams. He’s floored all right, but a sunlounger has broken his fall!

Yeah, it’s a tough life.

I don’t know if any research has been done into this, but the beginning of summer, I reckon, is just about the worst time to get a teenage boy to revise.

The nights are lighter, the sun is out and the boys want to play.

Surely it’d be better to hold exams in the winter, when the cold forces kids to stay indoors? Schools aren’t having it though. Summer it is.

And so it came to pass that when setting himself the goal of revising all weekend, I walked into the garden to find him with his top off, shades on, and lying on a sunlounger on the lawn.

It was time to give him that all-important pep talk.

I pulled him to one side and told him, in no uncertain terms, that he should at least give the impression that he’s revising.

“Take a text book out with you,” I said. “Then when you hear someone walk in the garden you can quickly pick it up and start reciting, loudly, some of the lines.”

I’m doing this for his sake and mine.

His lack of studying invariably ends up being my fault. I’m always at home to Mr Blame.

Our Bradley, thankfully, has acted on my advice. The house is now littered with old exam papers, text books and cue cards.

While I’ve yet to see him studying at a desk, it does at least now look like someone is revising hard while the sun shines.

Though I have great fears as the summer approaches. A big black angry mother-shaped cloud is heading over the horizon.