All Quiet on the Blogging Front

But the fiasco rolls on in the background!

Apologies are offered for the blog silence. I moved house two weeks ago and I’ve only been reconnected with the internet since Friday and I only built a desk (albeit an Ikea one) yesterday evening.

During my period of silence the GCSE English fiasco has ticked along quite nicely in the background, the exact opposite of what the government have been hoping for. Or at least I can only presume that as they continue to ignore it!

group of councils have started legal action against the government, a senior AQA examiner has resigned and Newsnight discovered that Ofqual did actually tell the exam boards there couldn’t be any increase in C grades (despite what they said in their official inquiry).

Meanwhile when was I wading through two weeks of entries from my favourite blogs I noticed that Geoff Barton had referred to the ridiculous rules and criteria that AQA & Ofqual had imposed on the free November resit. This is supposed to allow schools and colleges to rectify all the problems caused by the summer’s grade boundaries shift</sarcasm>. I couldn’t believe AQA had finally announced the official information because we hadn’t received anything in school, but a quick Google search showed they indeed had:

Now I see four big problems with this supposed fix.

Deadline Day

The 4th October is the deadline for schools to enter students into the November GCSE English resit for free. If we miss this deadline as AQA state in their FAQ we can enter students ‘late’ “but normal late entry fees will apply.”

So in other words, don’t inform English departments about what’s happening, just stick it online in the hope they’ll stumble on it and then when they don’t charge them for the ‘free’ resit.

League Tables

A big problem for many schools is that the changing grade boundaries had a massive impact on the 5A*-C inc English & Maths figure that is so important for league tables. This measure was introduced in order to force schools to focus on English and Maths and therefore improve teaching and results in those key subjects.

Some schools have fallen below the 40% floor target (I could write a whole blog on that) which means that their Head Teacher’s potentially face dismissal and the schools fear being forced into an academy conversion.

Ofqual & AQA have admitted there was an issue with this year’s GCSE English. The November resit is there to ‘fix’ the aforementioned problem, yet they’ve decided that any new ‘C’ grades won’t count towards this summer’s (2012) league tables.

They also won’t say whether the results will count in next year’s (2013) table. If they do, then all the students who resit in November and still get D grades will reduce the A*-C figure for next year. This will dissuade many school and Head Teachers from offering the resit. (Is this deliberate I wonder?)

The 40% Rule

The English exam system is very complicated. The most complicated area is probably the 40% terminal exam rule. It basically states that 40% of the course must be taken at the same time that the student wants to get an overall grade for the course. This 40% can be a resit of a unit, but if it is then that 40% counts for the qualification even if it’s at a lower standard than the previous attempt.

You might expect that for November this rule would be relaxed. Students have already certificated, many at D grades when they thought they would be achieving a C – it would be really mean then to say that, after 4 months without any English teaching or support, they could achieve an E grade if they did worse on the exam. No. If students do worse in November then the November grade must count and the students overall grade could go down. Unfair.

Certificated Students

The free resit only applies to Year 11 students who have certificated. Many schools also entered Year 10 students into the exam in the summer.

We did. We’d designed the course so that students do the entire GCSE English Language course in Year 10 and GCSE English Literature in Year 11. We use Year 11 to mop up any students who have under performed in Year 11 but we focus on teaching the Literature well, not teaching to the exam. However those students were equally punished by the increase in grade boundaries and now we’re going to have to spend more time focusing on the Unit 1 English Language skills and less time teaching Literature. The exact opposite of what Michael Gove apparently wants.

I’ve heard the argument that this creates a level playing field because no school entered Year 10 students in January 2012 so there aren’t any students who will benefit from those lower grade boundaries this summer. Except that isn’t true, because I know of schools where Year 10 students did the exam in January 2012.

When did we end up working in such an unfair system that seems designed to penalise hard working students and schools in equal measure?


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