Monday, 3 September 2012


Youngest had her first go at GCSEs in May. She took the first modules in the three sciences and the actual GCSEs in English Language and Spanish. She was somewhat surprised to achieve As in the Sciences (which she hates) but content with a B and an A respectively in the other two. Had she failed I expect we would have been encouraging her to repeat the exams, but she got what was predicted by her school, as did her big sister. But what of the current controversy?

Some children, who may have got Cs had they taken the English exam in January have scored Ds in June. Ofqual is saying that their investigations show that the papers were marked too generously in January and that anyone who’s unhappy can resit (possibly at no charge) in November… If the ‘new’ standard stays I’m not at all sure that I can see how this would help: presumably, even if the pupil is available to retake, they would be taking somewhat of a punt on doing better this time around? I don’t like the modular format of exams; it seems to me it lays itself open to this sort of problem. I suspect that the education world, who are shouting loudly about legal action, may find they’ve played into the hands of Michael Gove who believes that our exam system is all wrong and needs a complete overhaul.

I did OK in my O levels but poorly in my As so I hope you will allow me to say that, whatever a person’s results, they were awarded a grade that reflected where they stood in their year group (clearly I was in a very bright year…). The current view that passing time should show our schoolchildren improving misunderstands what the old system demonstrated. It was never about actual achievement but about relative achievement: it showed who the brightest students were in each year group. I’m not advocating that that was right, but we do need to know what these exams are actually for!

As a footnote you may be informed by a little incident when I told a small group that Eldest had a place at Oxford if she could get two A*s in Maths… One of the ladies present explained that since she went to a State school there wouldn’t be a problem as they pick the easiest exam boards with the simplest modules.

I was very restrained!


projectforty said...

I went to a staff development thing on Friday where such people were referred to as 'mood hoovers'. I can think of other names...but I have made a new term resolution of thinking good thoughts...mmmm

A Time for Stitching said...

Well done to youngest (and eldest)! I didn't do as well as expected in my O's and even worse in my A's but I still think it was a better system. Standards can't keep increasing until almost everyone gets 100% all the time - that system would be seriously flawed.
Teresa x

libby said...

Is your lip still sore from biting it?

sensibilia said...

Congratulations to eldest! And now she has gone off to college!

You might remember I mentioned that both my daughters did Maths degrees, one at Bath and one at Warwick. Both are enjoying life - eldest moved to Brussels a month ago to do a year's secondment there. She is an actuary now, and is loving it.