This morning, once I'd accomplished the necessary pinching, punching, flicking and kicking of everyone within reach, I was astonished to read in my paper that GCSE students are going to be stopped from taking their coursework home to prevent cheating.
I'm not saying that I grew up in a time when the internet was a mere twinkle in the eye of Tim Berners-Lee, but the web certainly wasn't easy to access – indeed, my school wasn't even online at the time. Unlike the youth of today, I wasn't to discover the joys of chat rooms until my late teens. As a result, I don't have the pallid skin of someone who has never seen sunlight, nor am I three times my ideal weight having stuffed my face full of lard lollipops while surfing the net. But that's by the by.
It was very difficult, if not impossible, to cheat on coursework without being found out. But I appreciate the difficulty for teachers of spotting plagiarised work these days – coursework regurgitated from a set textbook is easily noticed, but when there is so much information on just about every subject available online it's almost impossible to tell whether a piece of work is original or not.
Rather than pressurising the poor teachers to get the practical teaching done before making time for everyone to do their research, why not assess the pupils in a different way?
Let them do their coursework at home, but don't mark them on that alone. It's easy to copy out and remember passages of text from other sources but the real test is whether the pupil understands the subject, and this can be done by asking questions – you'll soon find out if they know their stuff or are just blagging.