The G.C.E. “O” Level examinations were scheduled before the Summer holidays, with an option to re-take any subjects as necessary before the Christmas holidays. As I was not due to start College in Cardiff until January 1964, that would be very convenient if I had problems!
During the summer holidays, I received an envelope containing my G.C.E. “O” Level Certificate. Only one subject, English Language, was listed. I remember so well the disappointment as the reality set in that I had failed all but one subject. Even Art! I used be at, or very close to, the top of Art class throughout my 5 years at school. How could I have possibly failed Art?
I cannot remember too much being said around the home, but clearly I was going back to school after the summer holidays!
That final term of school was totally dedicated to those failed subjects. I questioned my Art teacher about how I could possibly have failed but, not being involved in the markings of these examinations*, he had no answer.
I cannot remember the details of the Art examination, but do seem to recall that they included a “Still life”, “Human Study”, and an “Imaginative Painting” . The latter involved making a selection from a short list of subjects provided, one of which was “A Day at the Seaside”. My painting was a view along a typical English pier, showing the various amusement stalls and lots of colored lamps strung along the length of the pier. There were crowds of people just milling around the stalls. I recall being very pleased with the way it looked and had no doubts that my Art was an easy “O” Level.
In my second attempt at Art I took the choice of “Market Day”. I had already concluded that marking art was a very subjective process which was clearly complicated by personal taste, and so I deliberately chose “Market Day” because I could simply repeat my “A Day at the Seaside” painting. Instead of amusement stalls, I had produce (vegetables etc) stalls. The lighting and everything else was as close as I could get to my original painting. In my own way, I guess I was either protesting, or testing (probably both!) the “system”.
Just before Christmas, I received an envelope containing my G.C.E. “O” Level Certificate covering the second set of examinations. Listed on it were English Literature, French, Art and Mathematics! I had my required 5 including Mathematics and English Language! That result said so much about the integrity and/or validity of marking Art!
*I believe that the marking of “O” Level examinations was distributed around various schools such that no school teacher would be marking papers from their own school.