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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Teachers say no-one should 'fail'
School tests
Failure in tests can damage enthusiasm for school, say teachers
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has dismissed suggestions that the concept of "failure" should be removed from school in favour of "deferred success".

She said she gave the idea - which will be discussed at a teachers' conference - "nought out of 10".

The Professional Association of Teachers will be told at its meeting next week that the label of failure could undermine pupils' enthusiasm.

Delegates will also hear a condemnation of the phrase "happy slapping".

The term is used to describe bullying where assaults are filmed on mobile phones.

Liz Beattie, a retired teacher, will call on the association's annual gathering in Buxton, Derbyshire, to "delete the word 'fail' from the educational vocabulary to be replaced with the concept of 'deferred success'".


She argues that repeated failure, such as in exams, can damage pupils' interest in learning.

She told the Today programme on BBC Radio Four she had deliberately made the motion provocative to spark a good debate, but said it reflected the way the education system was developing.

"We have made so much development in recent years in making examinations more flexible, doing them in modules so you can concentrate on different parts of them at different times," she said.

"What happens when an exam is failed but, for example, three-quarters of it is perfectly satisfactorily done? It should be possible to do the other bits as add-ons afterwards and to defer the success of the exam."

When young people grow up they have to deal with success and failure
Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary

Wesley Paxton, a member of the association's council, is supporting the motion.

"Elsewhere we applaud those who persevere, like marathon contestants who take days to complete. It's time we made the word 'fail' redundant and replaced it with 'please do a bit more'," he said.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly told the Today programme on BBC Radio Four: "For that particular proposal, I think I might give them nought out of 10.

"It's really important for young people to grow up with the ability to get on and achieve, but also to find out what failure is.

"When young people grow up and enter the adult world they have to deal with success and failure, and education is about creating well-rounded young people who can deal with these sorts of situations."

The association, one of the smaller organisations for teachers, will also hear a call to block the use of the term "happy slapping" - when the attacks recorded on phones should be labelled as either an assault or bullying.

And there will be a call for "the producers of children's programmes to consider and address the presentation, language and diction of those programmes".

Should teachers use the word failure?

Hear Ruth Kelly on Radio 4's Today Programme

The strains of the exam season
14 Jul 05 |  Education
MP wants 'happy slapping' action
10 Jun 05 |  West Midlands

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