How decisions are made

It’s  not a true story but it could be 

A week before her first A level,  arrangements for sitting the exam were changed by the school. Just a minor change. The start time was moved forward half an hour along side a reminder that all candidates must be seated 15 minutes before the exam was due to start. Late comers would not be allowed in. During the course of the next few days the start time was changed back, moved forward and then back again. To complicate matters even further on one notification email the venue was changed. The delayed start time not giving sufficient time in between am and pm exams.


 On the day the exam took place at the original time and place. Nether the less my daughter felt that these last minute changes caused unnecessary stress at an already stressful time. Many of her fellow students felt the same anxiety about turning up at the wrong time or venue and therefore not being able to sit the exam they had studied so hard and long for. 


After the exams she emailed the head teacher and the chair of the governors expressing her concern and asking why this had happened. She was told that arrangement had been changed to fall in line with other schools/exam centres as the exam board guidance stipulated that exams start at the same time to avoid the risk of cheating. So her school was just falling in-line with other schools.But this didn’t really explain why the times changed and changed back again causing confusion and anxiety. So she emailed the exam board who responded that it was a local matter. She raised her concerns with her local MP and asked if he could find out why so many unsettling last minute changes were made. He sympathised and hoped it had not effected her performance. Frustrated she wrote to her local news paper. They printed the letter. The following week the letters page was dominated by replies not just from parents ,students and teachers from her school but schools across the region. The paper carried an editorial asking for answers. The Sunday’s picked up on the issue. MP,s were falling over themselves to ask a question in the House.


The Education minister was forced to make a statement. However the statement was so unconvincing, so illogical it didn’t make sense and the minister was roundly ridiculed. He immediately went back to his department and shouted at his civil servants for drafting him such a poor statement and making him look foolish in front of MPs. 


It was his PA who reminded him that following a ,”discussion” with his wife about his lack of involve in family life and apparently disinterest in his own children’s education he had made a commitment to take his daughter to school on the morning of her first A Level exam. The minister had instructed the PA to make sure his diary made this possible. 


Unfortunately the PM at short notice called a meeting of key cabinet members on the same morning. The PA couldn’t change the time of the PM’s meeting in order that the minister could take his daughter to sit her example so she informed the departments civil servants that the minister required the start time of the exam to change to fit in with the ministers diary commitments. The civil servants knew better than to  question an instruction. Unfortunately, as was the PM habits ,  over the next few days the start time of the meeting of cabinet colleagues changed several times. No one of course questioned why . 

Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger 

Security level: Public

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