At the end of the singing competition I went to last week the chief judge got up to speak to the audience and give her feedback to the choirs. She told us how she refused to judge competitions but enjoyed coming to Norwich to judge this one because it wasn't a competition. The problem with competitions, apparently, is that they can be very discouraging when all the choirs really want is some constructive feedback.
And then came the feedback, which was constructive, followed by the results. One choir got 'Commended Performance Plus', another 'Highly Commended' and another achieved 'Highly Commended Performance Plus' while the remaining entrants were given one of these. No choir was deemed to have achieved 'Outstanding'. If the object of this was to allow a head teacher to stand up in assembly and tell the school how well their choir did in the Festival then it succeeds very well. No one has to say their choir was beaten by the school around the corner.
If, on the other hand, it hopes to disguise from the children how they got on in the 'not' competition then I'm afraid it may have failed. My daughter knew straight away that her choir came last. Dressing numbers up as words wasn't enough to pull the wool over her eyes. Fortunately it didn't seem to bother her or her fellow choristers - they were in it for the fun.
The hard knocks and disappointments in education are often defended as 'preparation for the adult world'. I'm very glad the open-mic sessions and mixed, cabaret-style, events I sometimes play at aren't judged in this way. Yes, the feedback may be useful but as for the rest, I know if it's gone well or badly and the audience usually gives a fair indication of that, too. And speaking of the audience, the troop from Suffolk, presumably with the fewest parents in attendance, were the most enthusiastically applauded in spite of only coming joint second.