On line meeting with Schools Minister

I dialled in to Nick Gibb’s briefing yesterday about the forthcoming exam results. He set out the position as I did on my blog yesterday. He agreed  it would have been better for all pupils to be able sit the exams, and for these to be marked  by independent teachers who do not know the pupils as before. Instead we have a second best system where compromises have been made by the Examining Boards to try to award meaningful qualifications to pupils who have done the work  but  not taken the exam.

The Exam Boards and their Regulator have decided they do need to adjust the results proposed by teachers. They  stressed to teachers they want them to concentrate on getting the right order in their list of student results, so the Board knows who they think would have done best and who would have done worst in the exam. The general adjustments to the teacher scores will not affect the rankings of pupils school  by school. The Examining Boards are going to adjust some school  results downwards, keeping the proposed order, as in aggregate teacher’s assessments can produce considerably better results than past years.

This of course can produce injustices for pupils and schools that are improving on previous years. In some cases it may favour the school or pupil and will go unchallenged.  The appeals and exam options allow individuals and their schools to bring evidence that the adjusted grades are  not fair because they are  too low. Any constituent who is worried about their grade or their children’s grades should talk to their school about the possibility of an appeal or the exam option.

The truth in each case is we can never be sure how well that student would have performed in exam conditions on the day. There will remain a degree of approximation in some cases. The important tbing is for pupils to get a sufficient grade to go on to the next stage. Those who move from GCSE can prove they are better in their A levels if they feel their grade was wrong, and those who move to university can prove themselves better in University exams when they get there.

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  1. Sam Vara
    Posted August 11, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    People are now becoming aware of the scam that is perpetrated regarding exam results. Each year the award bodies change the “grade boundaries” so that the percentage mark that would have gained one particular grade now gains an entirely different grade. And over time, exam markers are told to award different marks – and thence the percentage grade – for work of the same quality.

    Historically, that has been necessary in order to meet two objectives: Tony Blair’s insistence that half our young people under 30 should have a degree (hence the huge sums thrown at “New Universities” and new courses in less rigorous subjects) and the egalitarian requirement that more people from disadvantaged backgrounds should be on an equal footing with those with greater advantages, regardless of the fact that advantage does produce the type of academic excellence that the universities are supposed to foster.

    Result: more young people off the jobless figures, and very few redundancies among HE staff due to increasing demand. What would be the chances of that happening if exams were marked and graded with standards which did not vary over the years.

    As Sir John says, “The important thing is for pupils to get a sufficient grade to go on to the next stage.” No mention as to whether they ought to be able to do that.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Indeed the best way to have done it would have been to gauge results mainly on GCSE grades in similar subjects. Teachers (who know the students) often are not impartial for this reason and so often get it wrong. If you do as Scotland has done and award anyone what the teachers thought (to win votes) you just devalue the grades hugely, con the students and over load universities with unsuitable people set up for a fall.

    When I recruit I tend to give people in house tests to do anyway. If I see A levels from 2020 I would probably ignore them and look at the GCSEs and visa versa.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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