Peter Fraser: Talking Heads – analysing GCSE results
I N common with many Heads I have spent a great deal of time analysing GCSE English Language results, and have concluded that the grading this year represents the greatest corruption of our examination system in the last decade. A cohort of pupils, through no fault of their own, have been treated unfairly
As a school we do not enter Year 11 pupils in January, and reasonably expect there to be a close match between grade boundaries set in January and June. A comparison with standards in 2011 reveals a clear change in standards applied without consultation, notice or transparency. Grade boundaries were shifted and none more so than the critical C – D boundary.
The Ofqual enquiry suggested that the modular structure and over generous marking were central to the problem. This response and that of the boards does not bear scrutiny and disregards the impact on tens of thousands of pupils who would in previous years have secured a C grade.
They have been penalised for sitting the examination in the summer of 2012 and denied a key qualification. The offer of a free sitting in November is, in reality, unlikely to repair the damage done to individuals. Their futures have been compromised.
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Any significant change in standards, judgements and grade boundaries should have been communicated in a transparent, timely and coherent fashion rather than introduced by stealth. Schools, teachers and pupils have all been treated in a shoddy manner.
It is all well and good to debate standards and systems of assessment, but teachers deal with pupils and parents who quite reasonably trust our professional judgment.
I do not for a moment deny that we need to look to the issue of standards – particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy. Equally I appreciate that the issue of core qualifications in English, maths and science is both an educational and political issue.
For all the denials, it is clear that both Mr Gove and Ofqual blame "the system". Teachers and parents have no control over this and yet we have had to deal with the consequences to individual pupils who have been denied a core qualification through no fault of their own. Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, has chosen to focus on the examination system and denies that there is any case for the action of the examination boards to be called into question. Clearly he has not looked at the evidence or dealt with disappointed pupils and angry parents.
While politicians and examination administrators posture, schools will pick up the pieces for pupils who have paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time
Mr Gove has expressed sympathy for the pupils affected and admitted that they were unfairly treated by the system. Ofqual cannot claim that they were unaware of the changes in grade boundaries, equivalent to 5–10 per cent, or the consequences for so many young people. As for Ofqual, they join the ranks of regulatory bodies that constantly fail to protect those whom they should serve.
â Peter Fraser is headmaster at Colston's School.