That was quite a storm. After years of rising standards, with each year showing an improvement, we reach a year when fewer young people are awarded A* to C grades.
Some teachers complain that good pupils have been marked down. They say that if they had been told what the new higher standards were, they would have prepared their pupils to achieve them. They say the marking has been too tough. It was, of course, teachers undertaking the marking, with other teachers advising the Exam Boards on the papers and the marking system.
Other teachers say it is important to arrest grade inflation. They think it had become too easy to get an A or A*. They hope this latest set of results marks a turning point in establishing and maintaining standards of achievement.
There seems to be some uncertainty about whether the current system is trying to establish an absolute standard of achievement which stays the same year after year, or whether they wish to have a similar proportion getting higher grades each year by fixing the pass mark through keeping the proportions of the different grades the same.
It is unfair on those taking the exams if they do not know what is expected, or if the standards change between the time they start and the time they finish without them knowing it. It is particularly unfair if someone needs a C or higher in a GCSE to go on to further study, and has just failed to get this through some unannounced change in the standard required.
A case can be made for a different approach to exams, and reconsideration of what is expected. Some older people who did O levels think a return to their virtues could help. I am not sure. O levels required a lot of learning by rote, where the information is now easily available to anyone who wants to look it up. O levels did also require some different levels of thought and attainment from GCSE, which might be worth considering as part of a new GCSE syllabus. Some GSCE syllabuses include items which are good additions to the old O level.
I am myself now unsure of what is going on and what is needed for 16 year old qualifications. To do well in the 6th form students should need some basic knowledge, good skills in maths, English and foreign languages depending on their choice of 6th form course, and a capacity to study independently. How far does GCSE prepare young people for that? How could it be improved? I look forward to your views.