Robert the Bruce Day

I call today Robert the Bruce Day after the Scottish King who endured a number of failures and, so the tale goes, was inspired to carry on campaigning when all seemed lost by watching a spider fail to complete is web. Despite several failures, the story goes, the spider didn’t give up and continued trying until it eventually succeeded.

There will be some pupils that receive their GCSE results today that won’t have made the required grades in either or both of English and mathematics. Now we can argue long and hard about the suitability of the curriculum for all sixteen year olds studying these subjects, but we are where we are. The government has decreed that every person in learning or education should continue to study these subjects until they are at the required standard.

I can sympathise. Back in the golden age of grammar schools I failed what was then ‘O’ level English at age 16. Indeed, I failed it at age 17 and age 18 as well. In total, I failed the subject some five times before finally achieving a pass in not one but two different Examination Boards at the same time; the January of my third year in the Sixth Form.

Fortunately, I was inspired by the Robert the Bruce story when in primary school. It may have had something to do with Bruce Castle Park in Tottenham, just down the road from where I went to primary school. Just as likely, was the way, W W Ashton, the head teacher, told the story. Any way the notion of not giving up stuck. This helped me through the slog of repeating the same examination following yet more tuition throughout the first two years of the Sixth Form. Curiously, in the term before the final examinations I passed, I didn’t have any more tuition, but time to think and assimilate what was needed.

I guess my basic failings in spelling and grammar that regular readers of this blog may have noticed from time to time may not have helped my cause. They certainly meant I never expected either to have written a column in a national education publication for over a decade or to have been a regular writer of a blog. In that respect, technology has been a great help: this would not have been possible with the development of the microchip.

So, my message is one of hope. Don’t give up. If at first you fail, try, try again. Who knows what you might achieve in the end.



4 thoughts on “Robert the Bruce Day

  1. Totally agree John as I can better your English count. I failed it 7 times until a succeeding when at work when I was 18. Spell check has done wonders to my prose. However, the important point is no matter where you are in education keep trying until you achieve your aims.

    • John,

      Delighted to hear from you and to read your story. We need to inspire the future generations that it is not all about those whose path is easy. your later achievement sin life stand as a testimony to your hard work and determination.


  2. When GCSEs were first introduced, all grades were passes. They ranged from basic (grade G) to exceptional (grade A – there was no A*). They were introduced with the humane purpose of allowing pupils who spanned the entire ability range to leave school with certificates which showed what they knew, understood and could do.

    In the last decade or so, the idea has been introduced that anything less than a C was poor. Pupils who don’t reach a C, which was once supposed to be a sign of above-average attainment, are expected to retake maths and English until they reach the ‘required standard’.
    Who decided a C was the ‘required standard’ for all pupils? Grades D-G are Level 1 qualifications – springboards to Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE A*-C). They have value but this value is dismissed by politicians and commentators who patronisingly claim that other people’s achievements are so low as to be without merit.

    Level 2 is in turn a springboard to Level 3 (equivalent to A level). Do those who insist that Level 2 is the ‘required standard’ for all 16 year-olds really think that all 16 year-olds are capable of A level? If they do, then A levels would need to be seriously dumbed-down if they are to be accessible to all 16 year-olds.

    • Janet,

      An when the National Curriculum was introduced there were 9 levels so everyone had a next level to aspire to. At least we don’t have a pass all at one go EBacc such as the old School Cert was. Now that really would be a disaster.


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