Ofqual & Exams: One Week On

We’re now one week further into the GCSE English fiasco, but we’re still none the wiser. Ofqual have released the full report on the situation, written to Michael Gove and Michael WilshawMichael Govehas said that GCSE students were treated unfairly, Michael Wilshaw has said that GCSEs need to be reformed and the Times Educational Supplement revealed that Ofqual didn’t follow their own rules when they adjusted the grade boundaries. Yet – nothing has changed.

The focus is still on the change in controlled assessment boundaries:

For the units causing concern, written controlled assessments, seven per cent of entries were in January and 93 per cent in June. For the largest provider, AQA, two per cent of entries happened in January.

On the basis of the work carried out by Ofqual so far, our initial findings are:

  • For GCSE English this summer, a complex and unique set of circumstances came together to create a highly unusual situation for schools, colleges and their students.
  • The standard set for the GCSE English is comparable with the standard in previous years.
  • June grade boundaries were properly set, and candidates work properly graded.
  • The issue is the January, not the June grade boundaries.
  • Understandably, schools were over-reliant on the January 2012 boundaries to set expectations as there was little other information available to them.

(http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/news-and-announcements/130-news-and-announcements-press-releases/972-ofqual-report-on-gcse-english-results-finds-january-assessments-were-graded-generously)

Yet for many schools the unit causing the most concern was the exam. Ofqual’s pitiful response to allow students to resit early in November reflects this, but their statements don’t reflect this. AQA’s statement suggests that they too believe the controlled assessments were the issue:

This summer, all the GCSE exam boards in England (AQA, Edexcel and OCR), raised the grade boundaries for the controlled assessment part of their English qualifications compared with the winter exam series.

(http://web.aqa.org.uk/media-centre/news.php?item=49B0A251-A38A-4296-B797-5C280C4A8F6E)

There is no reference to the fact that the grade boundaries for the exam were increased by ten marks (a far higher % increase than the controlled assessment). This is where our students were most affected. Fifteen of our students would have achieved a C grade (5.5%) if they hadn’t moved the ‘pass’ mark from 43 to 53. Of those fifteen students, 12 achieved a C grade in maths, but not English. Our A*-C inc English and maths dropped to below 60% as a result. More importantly though, students missed out on college places, apprenticeships and jobs. They’re now studying Level 2 courses instead of Level 3 courses. They’re classed as NEETs instead of earning a wage.

And the response from Ofqual continues to be that students in January were lucky. Tell that to James or Charlotte or Freya or Stefan.  Tell it to the 60 000+ students who were affected this summer. Tell it to their parents.

It’s time for an independent enquiry.

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