Anorak News | Better to pass all pupils in GCSE and A-Levels than this mess

Better to pass all pupils in GCSE and A-Levels than this mess

by | 7th, August 2020

No newspapers will lead with pictures of teenage girls jumping for joy at their exam results. Instead media has opted to parrot the Government line that education is under control. It isn’t. Children have been let down badly by State-led reactions to Covid-19. Rather than allowing children to sit tests in English and maths – a grade 4 at GCSE is the minimum score required to continue in education – all exams were cancelled. Why were they cancelled so quickly? Why were they not postponed?

Today’s Times appears to offer hope, telling readers: “Thousands more pupils could get the right of appeal over their A-level grades next week after a key concession by the exam regulator.” That’s wrong. The concession from Ofqual is for schools to appeal if they believe their year group was above average and so deserving of higher than normal grades.

For anyone not in the know, this is how the exam system currently functions:

Exams were cancelled this year and teachers had to provide grades for each child and put them in ranked order within the class.

These grades could be changed by exam boards according to the school’s previous performance. For example, if a teacher gave large numbers of pupils an A* in English but no pupil had reached better than a C grade in previous years they could be marked down.

Ofqual says it is “not surprising” that grades calculated by many schools and colleges are optimistic, as teachers “naturally want to do their best for their students”. Overall, teachers’ best guess has seen A-level and GCSE results pushed up by 12 per cent and nine per cent respectively compared to 2019. “Improvement on such a scale in a single year has never occurred and to allow it would significantly undermine the value of these grades for students,” says Ofqual. To which the response is, so what? We’ve not had a pandemic called Covid-19 before. When was the last time the State cancelled school and all exams. You want to study the trends. But an obsession with data risks overlooking the glaringly obvious.

Children have been short-changed. Having worked towards an end point for two years, judgement day when years of schooling gets validated is cancelled. School is all about following a curriculum geared towards the exam syllabus. Children are reared on the idea that exams are everything. And then at the moment of truth, the Government says you can get a grade with a guess made by somebody who has never seen your work.

The individual matters not. It’s all trends and tracking. Schools closed in March with education replaced by “blended” learning (lessons on the iPad). So what happens in 2021 – do we get GCSE and A-level exams and if not what are the grades to be based on? According to the Sutton Trust, two-thirds of children have not engaged with online lessons during lockdown. You need the internet, a parent at home and a laptop to make it work. Pupils from independent schools are twice as likely to have taken part in online lessons as those at state schools. They can also afford tutors.

If comparing year groups is worth anything, every year has to get the same chances. That has not happened. Instead, pupils deemed to have failed exams they were banned from taking will be invited to resit them in November. Why bother? Why not just pass them all and recognise that children – ambitious, resilient and full of life – want to get on with their lives and not be dragged back to virtual classroom to be tested by people who have taught them only one valuable lesson: most things are done by guesswork.

Posted: 7th, August 2020 | In: News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink