GCSEs: what’s luck got to do with it?
A small handful of students “got lucky” in January, according to the chief exam regulator Glenys Stacey, as she published her review into the GCSE marking mess.
Got lucky? You get lucky in poker, or at the bingo, you’re not supposed to get lucky in the way potentially life-changing exams are graded.
But yes, the chief regulator admitted yesterday, it had been easier to get a C for part of the English GCSE if you took it in January rather than in June. And how is that inherent unfairness being resolved? The students who took the exam with the tougher grade boundary have been offered the chance to resit for free – yes free! – in November. Now those students definitely “got unlucky” – if you’ll excuse the Grade E grammar.
The critical thing, according to the Ofqual review is this: although the exams in January were graded “generously”, the grades in June are sound.
It’s a very straightforward explanation to a hugely complicated situation that has been met with fury by head teachers, students and parents across the country. There is, predictably, talk of legal action.
What’s not yet been fully explained is how schools with previously impressive English departments – including someone of the education secretary’s most feted academies – saw drops of 10 to15 per cent in their English results this year compared to last. A particularly untalented bunch of students? A shoddy year of teaching by staff? All possible, though Ofqual boss Ms Stacey was certainly batting away any criticism of the students in her round of interviews yesterday.
So the chances of the regulator’s decision being the final one here looks unlikely.
Even the former head of Ofsted, Sir Chris Woodhead – never scared of taking on the teachers – said he’d initially thought Ofqual’s plan was the right one. But he now finds himself siding with the teachers’ demands for a re-grade this year for the students who took the exam in June.
As for the future, he says this is yet more evidence of the need for total reform of GCSEs. And there he sides with the Education Secretary Michael Gove. The one person still silent in the midst of this noisy row.
He’s due to speak on the issue next week. All change again?
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