In praise of… watching football tournaments at exam time

or, why we need to show exams the red card

Oh, Jesus wept. A study shows that in even years - when there's meaningful international football in the summer - boys' exam performances drop. The authors suggest starting the exams earlier so as not to disadvantage football-watchers.

Let's leave aside the rather sexist assumption that boys and only boys watch the Euros. That's a topic for someone else. What I find breathtaking is the blithe statement that putting in effort right up to the exams makes it more likely that students achieve better grades.

Firstly, well done Sherlock, another mystery solved.

But secondly, isn't the point of education to have students knowing stuff that will help them in adult life, rather than simply cramming for exams? Doubtless, being able to remember the Croatia-Greece result is less important than being able to remember the exact running order of the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Secondary education in England generally lasts five years. This report purports to show that spending a few tens of hours in front of the football towards the end of it can lower exam results on average by a quarter to a half of a grade.

It sounds to me like an awfully volatile system.

It sounds to me like a system designed to reward last-minute swotting over consistent learning.

It sounds to me like a broken system.

If watching a few games of football at exam time is enough to affect your results so dramatically, then the GCSE exams are not fit for purpose and deserve an early bath.

(Image by StewieD used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence.)


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


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