Head’s fury at changing of boundaries in exam year

This Is Wiltshire: David Nicholson David Nicholson

OFQUAL’S refusal to order exam boards to regrade this summer’s GCSEs in English been slammed by David Nicholson, secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and the headteacher of Abbeyfield School, Chippenham.

On Friday the regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England said grade boundaries had changed between January and June but offered only resits to affected pupils.

But Mr Nicholson says it is not the standards that changed, but marking.

He said: “We need to recognise the achievements of students who have worked incredibly hard to achieve these the results, not denigrate their success by questioning standards or rigour.

“We should also celebrate the work of their teachers who have worked so hard on their behalf. The big issue both locally and nationally is at the C/D borderline in English.

“What seems to have happened is that, halfway through the year, it was decided that too many students were going to get a C grade in English and the grade boundaries of the exam were pushed up very substantially. Standards haven’t changed, it is the grading that has altered. “Students who were working at a C level, who were assessed by their teachers that they were in line for a C, discovered this summer that this is worth a D. This means they may not get their places at college and sixth form. “In the case of my own school, we were expecting results in English to be over 80 per cent, instead we suffered a 10 per cent drop.”

This year’s GCSE results showed the first fall in the proportion of A* to C grades since the exams were introduced.

Mr Nicholson said: “It is wrong to manipulate exam grades . Failure to gain a C or above in English often blocks access to post-16 study and many career paths. It could also demoralise those students who are at the highest risk of dropping out of education.

“Thousands of headteachers have registered their complaint to the Department of Education and Ofqual, but it looks like there will be no change in students’ English results. The offer exam boards may make for free exam resits in the autumn is too impractical for students who will have left school or will be concentrating on other courses.”

Mr Nicholson said that as there was no formal decision on an inquiry yet the ASCL may wait to see what the result is of pressure from the National Union of Teachers.

Meanwhile Dr Patrick Hazlewood, head of St John’s School at Marlborough said a lot of examination papers had been sent back for remarking.

Dr Hazlewood said the school’s monitoring system predicted 82 per cent of pupils getting C grades or better in English. He said: “When it came out at 72 per cent after the markings we knew very well that something had happened. In years to come employers will see these grades and our students will be disadvantaged.”

Mike Harrison, secretary for the Wiltshire branch of the NUT, said: “It is very disappointing that Ofqual has not seen fit to re-mark the papers.

“They have not recognised that they have let down teachers, schools and the pupils themselves. I don’t believe pupils should be punished for something that is wrong within the system. Pupils are allowed to retake the paper, but that will mean nothing to those who are due to start college this week and have missed out on the courses they wanted to study.

“In some cases, it could mean students missing out on a year of education as they need to resit their exams.”

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