Archive | October 15, 2012

Downgrading or Grade-Fixing GCSE English Results

Downgrading or Grade-Fixing GCSE English Results

By Hwaa Irfan

For years, the British standard of education has been going through regrading, in some parts from year to year, making it difficult to maintain a level of consistency from the point of view of grading, and from the point of view of the student knowing what to aim for. At what point it will be leveled out when they have in mind to export the British education system which will be aimed at inculcating the mind towards a one government, one planet economy is yet to be seen. In the meantime, British students have had reason with 2012 results to question the grading, as do some of the educationalists.

In September, schools and some local authorities/governorates have had cause to challenge the results, and have demanded a regrading of June examination papers.

The British grading system has never been based on how much an individual student gets, but on a national percentile, which means that over the years, many students might have passed, but accepted the results. Unfortunately, it is only 180 pupils, 113 schools, 36 authorities, and 7 professional organizations acting of behalf of thousands who may have received borderline grades, i.e. they got a D grade, instead of a C grade, which could make the difference between going onto A-Levels, or getting a place in higher education. This difference was created by recent changes that leads to a 10 mark difference.

To highlight the situation one student and teacher in an interview with Gaurdian.co.uk:

“I worked hard for a C grade in English and it has been taken away from me right at the end. That is just not fair. I am now having to redo the course with a different exam board over the next year at the same time as doing four A-levels.” – Jonathan Clarke, St Matthew Academy, Blackheath, South London.

“Jonathan is one of 31 students from our school who has suffered in this way. He is a hard-working, conscientious student, getting two A stars, four As, two Bs, three Cs and then a D in English. It is obvious that something is very wrong here.” – Michael Barry, Headteacher.

For the British educationalist who was ready to put it down to a mistake, former principal GCSE examiner for the AQA board was not. It was in August 2012 that John Nield raised the issue as grade-fixing and called on Michael Gove, Education Secretary to regrade the affected papers. Neild raised his voice this time, because the number of grade-fixing was greater than normal (the biggest in 24 years). Nield knows that it is routine procedure for Ofqual to demand examination boards to re-draw grade boundaries. Nield told the Daily Mail:

‘In order to get a C in January you needed 44 marks. To get a C In June you needed 53 marks. That to me is totally unfair.”

One can think of a more appropriate and more insulting word than “unfair.”

The changes to the English foundation paper meant a 10-mark difference from the exams sat by other pupils in January. The lack of a C in English could threaten pupils’ school or college places to study A-levels. The alliance is demanding Ofqual, the exam regulator in England, orders a regrade or face moves to force a judicial review in the high court.

Can a student get two A stars, four As, two Bs, three Cs and then a D in English when English is the same tool used to get two A stars, four As, two Bs, three Cs?

According to the country’s (i.e. England) regulatory body Ofqual there has been no problem, but that only raises the question who and what are they acting on behalf of, a fair exam system, or maintaining/establishing a status quo! Rather than accept the gauntlet and mark the exams again, which is a students entitlement, they only offer those students the opportunity to re-sit the exams in early November, which puts the onus on the student, and not the regulatory body. Whilst in Wales the responsibility was taken up by their regulatory body, WJEC, after the Welsh Assembly ordered those borderline exams to be reassessed. The result was 2,400 school students got an increase in their grades. However, a letter from Deputy Director of Ofqual, Jeremy Benson, seeks to undermine Welsh action:

“As we have said publicly, we will need to consider your report in detail, because of the significance of the recommendations. We have been considering in particular whether WJEC can simultaneously meet the requirements of both your direction and our Conditions of Recognition. There are serious consequences if it cannot.” – September 11 2012

Back in England Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, views it as a mistake that is paid for by the students, but is it!

“It is inconceivable that two cohorts of students enrolled for the same course in the same academic year, who have undertaken the same work and invested the same effort, and who will be competing in future for the same opportunities, should be subjected to such radically different standards of assessment and award.”  – a letter to examination boards AQA and Edexcel, Edexcel is one body that exports its system to other countries.

The Centre for Education and Employment Research think-tank said 10,000 fewer pupils achieved the mark in English in 2012 than 2011, the result of which is 45,000 students will have to re-sit their exams, but a legal challenge has been set by thr alliance of pupils, schools, 36 authorities, and 7 professional organizations.

It would be interesting to know what the background is of both these students in a class riddled society that has put a cap on meritocracy!

The dirt began to hit the surface, before the British elite’s Daily Telegraph published an article GCSE results 2012: ‘failing’ schools threatened with closure through social networking. By increasing the pass threshold, one can cut the budget, by cutting schools, staff, and/or enforcing greater government control or a sell off of some kind. If ever the British citizen felt that they had something to defend, this is it for…

“A human being is not at all a skin sack filled with reflexes, and the brain is not a hotel for a series of conditioned reflexes accidentally stopping in.” – Lev Vygotsky

Sources include:

Meikle, J. “Mass legal action threatened over GCSE English results.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/21/legal-action-gcse-english

“Ofqual Letter to Welsh Government” http://www2.ofqual.gov.uk/files/2012-09-12-ofqual-to-welsh-gvt.pdf?Itemid=145

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