Is a lazy student my fault?

He sat there and stared into space.

It was my Bottom Set Year 11's mock exam. In just over a month they will be doing the real one. Invigilating, I wandered nervously around the back of the hall. Mocks are the key indicator as to how students will perform in the actual exam. They are proof of whether I've achieved anything over the last two terms.

With an hour left, his paper was closed. I walked over, opened it and found almost half the questions unanswered. I looked at him imploringly and he shook his head.

Just how responsible am I for this? He's not the brightest student but I know I've equipped him with the skills to make a good stab at all of this paper. I clearly, however, haven't given him the motivation or confidence to do so.

As the January exams approach, I've been thinking more about this question of responsibility. My set will do ok but I know a few are going to miss their targets. I've taught them the course thoroughly and accessibly, built good relationships with parents to ensure home support and have run regular after-school sessions. Yet, in hindsight, it's always easy to identify things you could have done better.

Is it my fault if a sixteen-year-old cares so little they give up halfway through the mock exam? What hurts is that feeling of powerlessness; I don't know how to make him care.

p.s. The issue of who is responsible for exam results also links directly into the whole debate on performance-related pay, something I'd like to do a post on sometime.