Podcast - Exams during the Second World War

Exams during the Second World War

24 Nov 2020 (2:55)

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Exams during the Second World War - an extract from Chapter 2 of Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, by Andrew Watts and Chapter 4, by Greg Lacey.

As part of a special series of short podcasts, Cambridge Assessment's Group Archivist Gillian Cooke shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Find out more about our Archives & Heritage

Podcast transcript

Alana Walden: [00:00:07.34]

Hello. Welcome to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. I'm Alana Walden, and I'm here to introduce a special series from Cambridge Assessment's Archives and Heritage. In each episode, our group archivist Gillian Cooke shares short extracts from Examining the World: A History of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, our publication that shares a unique insight into the history of exams.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:36.59]

Exams during the Second World War, from Examining the World, Chapter 2, Andrew Watts and Chapter 4, Greg Lacey

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:42.84]

The emergency arrangements for the home examinations dealt in detail with the ways invigilators had to act if an examination was interrupted by an air raid and the candidates had to go into shelters.

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:53.29]

A report should then be written to the Syndicate to explain any special circumstances.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:00:57.69]

‘Examination room behaviour showed clearly that all candidates were very tired’ wrote one Headmaster, who went on to list the difficulties of the individual students:  ‘Home badly damaged … Home demolished … Civil Defence duty all night … assisted in fire fighting and salvage work …  Grandparents killed …’

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:16.81]

Those candidates whose homes were damaged, the Head noted, ‘have had attendant difficulties in obtaining accommodation and clothes’. 

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:21.44]

The same Head wrote that ‘All candidates showed a marked reluctance to single themselves out as undergoing special hardships when so may suffered worse, and tended to confine themselves to laconic understatements.'

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:33.64]

The same determination that the examinations should go on as usual was to be seen overseas.  

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:38.74]

In 1945 the Syndicate received a letter from the Colonial Office asking it to consider scripts from candidates who had taken their School Certificate examinations while in an internment camp in Malaya.

Gillian Cooke: [00:01:50.94]

The interned Education Officer who organised the camp school, Mr. H. R. Cheeseman, wrote ‘It will mean a great deal to the candidates to get this recognition – it will mitigate the loss involved by the war and I have used the possibility of this recognition as an incentive not only to them but to the whole camp school.’

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:08.63]

Despite the difficulties of captivity, Mr Cheeseman wrote, ‘the regulations of the Syndicate regarding the conduct of the examinations were strictly followed.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:16.74]

The application was considered by the Oversea Committee of the Syndicate on 2 November, which, having taken advice from its examiners who had scrutinised the scripts, gratifyingly concluded that School Certificates should be issued.

Gillian Cooke: [00:02:28.57]

Similar awards were also made to internees in camps in Shanghai.

Alana Walden: [00:02:33.04]

Thank you for listening to the Cambridge Assessment Podcast. You can find more of our podcasts on our website, just search for Podcast Gallery. Or you can find us on YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. 

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