I’m a Cheat

I woke up this morning to the news that I’m a cheat, a rubbish teacher and I’m under pressure. At least, that’s what the media are saying this morning.

Here’s why:

  1. In January 2011 we entered our Year 10 students for their GCSE English exam. It was the first time it had ever been available as a modular course, it was a new specification and as teachers we didn’t really have a clue what we were doing. It was an opportunity to see how they were marked, how our students responded and to adjust our teaching from that.
  2. Between February 2011 and April 2012 our students sat a variety of different controlled assessment tasks from the banks provided by the exam board (making up 40% of the final grade) and did their speaking & listening assessments (making up 20% of the final grade) in conditions outlined by the exam board and our coursework advisor.
  3. In January 2012 we started tracking our students in a very detailed way, using the UMS conversions to grade boundaries provided by AQA (you can find an example of our tracking grid on slide 7 of this PDF: http://www.school-portal.co.uk/GroupDownloadFile.asp?GroupId=23918&ResourceID=4711685). We employed a consultant to work with us on improving our English exam results (as required by our OfSted visit in 2009), one of the things we did was set up day long intervention sessions with our most vulnerable C/D borderline students where they redid a controlled assessment within a day. They followed the exam board guidelines: they did a different task title, they did it in within the time allowed and with the right notes pages.
  4. We knew where EVERY student was in terms of UMS and what they would get in the summer. We MADE sure that students who needed to get a C grade in the summer had every opportunity to do so and we played the numbers game to do it. I’ve recently presented at our school curriculum meeting, local schools and other local authorities about how we tracked in the English department last year. When OfSted visited they praised our improved tracking systems and when we shared the data with parents they loved it. When we got our exam results in August 2012 we’d increased our A*-C in English from 69% to 77%.
  5. Shortly after the exam results every school gets a feedback sheet offering you advice on how to improve your marking on the controlled assessments and the tasks you set. We were commended for our exemplary marking that was accurate. Nobody changed our centre’s marks. At an AQA meeting last Monday Andrew Bird told us that 95% of centres had their marks agreed with. Why then did 100% of centres have their marks adjusted for their controlled assessment (by 5 in total), and 100% of centres have their marks adjusted for the exam (by 5 in total). Which still doesn’t make sense to me, if the controlled assessment was the problem, then why were those marks adjusted LESS than the exam?

Apparently doing the best for our students within the rules in cheating. Isn’t it lovely to be rewarded for our hard work.


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