We know the pupils enjoy the exam day itself - getting their hair done and sharing an exciting experience with their class mates. They burst out of the hall to tell us what went wrong, when so-and-so fell over and whether the examiner was smiling during their dance. 99% of the time the general consensus is - can we do it again right now please? This kind of response is why Clifford Studios enters pupils for exams - the results themselves are great tools to build on - but whether it's a Pass, Merit or Distinction doesn't matter to us.
A good set of results to us is one that accurately reflects the pupils' abilities and on the whole this is what is given. However, there are times when examiners are appealed against and there is always the matter of personal style to contend with.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG...
Thankfully, I have not witnessed many occasions when pupils are upset at the end of an exam, or when the results are distributed. The few times they have been, it is usually because they know they weren't as prepared as they could have been and that the exam exposed this.
We would never enter a pupil who we thought was unprepared and sometimes have to make difficult decisions NOT to allow a pupil to take part. This is because a great deal of damage can be done with a negative exam experience or result. Though, having said this, EVERYTHING is a learning experience in my opinion!
TALKING TO THE PUPILS:
Once all results have been distributed, we sit down with the students and discuss what each section means. We don't compare marks or force students to reveal what they were awarded unless appropriate. We hope this gives them a little more understanding of their marks and what they can build on the next time.
A PINCH OF SALT:
The exam marking criteria has already changed 3 times since I started dancing and is sure to do so again several times. I was given a hand written comments sheet, not marks out of 10, for the first few exams I took. In my teens this changed to A - E grades rather than Pass, Merit or Distinction. Now we are back to the old grading system but with no written comments.
These changes reflect what is going on in wider society and you most likely know better than I about the way children are tested in 2016! It's great that dance and drama exams are now recognised by the national qualifications framework, but I'm sure at some point this will change as well. Which is why putting too much pressure on the results themselves is, in my opinion, dangerous.
We will continue to do exams at Clifford Studios, alternating these with performances and shows and perhaps even competitions. I believe the benefits outweigh the negatives, especially as the parameters themselves change so frequently.
My aim with Clifford Studios and my teaching is to instil a love of dance and music in our pupils. Through dance, I want to equip them with skills that will help them in their day to day lives, whether they choose to make performing their career or not.
Lastly, it may interest you to learn that my sister - who a lot of you now know - currently runs her own design + print agency; Pirrip Press. She has exhibited her work and undertaken residencies all over Europe and been commissioned by clients such as Orange, The Guardian and Waitrose as an illustrator. She was awarded a 'D' for her A Level Art.