Why school exams must be taken with pen and paper

It is rather strange to note that although almost everyone working in Great Britain in an office, shop, warehouse, factory or government building undertakes most of their writing and calculating on a computer, children and students at school are still forced to undertake much of their work, and almost all of their examinations, on paper.

If you ever ask teachers or examination bodies as to why this is so, there is a suggestion that computers will lead to students cheating – for example by accessing the spell checker when writing essays.

And yet within such a view there is very little thought as to why using a spell checker is cheating.  After all, a spell checker is exactly what I am using as I write this, and it is what I use every day in my working life.  So is my working life cheating?  It’s a bit of an odd thought.

The production of homework, classwork and examinations represent a significant use of paper within the UK – there are 29,000 schools and around 7.5 million pupils and students in school at any one time.

On the assumption that the average student will use five pages of paper per school day, this represents around 7 billion sheets of paper a year being used in school.

Fortunately not all of that has to be stored – although some of the exam papers do have to be kept for long periods in order to provide comparisons.  (Incidentally the exam paper themselves work out at around 20 million sheets a year).

But some paper does have to be stored for long periods of time – and you need it to be there when you want it.  You also need to know the temperature is ok, the humidity is right, and that no one else could possibly come across your material and remove it by mistake.

There’s more details about our storage system, where we are, and what we do on our website.

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