Not ‘the best results ever’: Good news for GCSEs

24 August 2012

For the first year since GCSE’s came in we have not seen ‘the best results ever’.  Which is, of course, a great relief.  As Anthony Seldon, among others, has pointed out, these results suggest a return to credibility in our examination system.

But there are already those, including some teachers and teacher unions who are now hinting darkly at ‘political interference’.  They are used to year-on-year grade inflation and expected this to continue forever.

I think these people should themselves be asked to pass a simple test.  They should try to find a single university lecturer who is able to tell them (with a straight face) that each year – as exam results have got better and better – the students coming up to their university have known more and had better literacy and numeracy skills than any year before.

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  • John Steadman

    Of course it’s a matter of depressed results as a consequence of political pressure, in exactly the same way that the magical rise in grades over the past 20 years was itself a result of political intereference, when the Tories, in the late 80s (under the guidance of Sir Keith I seem to recall) decided to bring 16+ exam results into the political area, and they subsequently allowed the exam boards to slip neatly into commercial competition – a sure way to procure higher grades.(And, as Mr Grumpy observes, everybody was happy, most especially our brilliant politician’s for whom rising grades – fools’ gold – were votes.)
    Of course this new stategy has caused a furore because of the bungling which has produced the English anamoly – if you want a return to a standard, (long overdue – I remember writing to the TES 15 years ago about the absurdity of annual ‘record results’) you need to execute a methodical reform to ensure that the changes occur across the board, to include all subjects.
    But there is a lot of hysterical tosh being talked at the moment – by the usual culprits, notably my erstewhile comrades in the teaching unions – and I cannot believe the few pupils allegedly disadvanted by this recent round of exams (and I am informed that about 1 or 2 per cent in the C/D range will be affected by the clumsy revision in English, where I can vouch as a former eexaminer/marker standards had been plummeting for donkeys years) will find themselves disadvantaged in respect of ‘uni’ applications; the universities know exactly what has been going on – is going on – since they have allowed, or perhaps even encouraged for funding reasons , marked grade-inflation in their own sector, as everybody knows, but most have to deny, if they are in expectation of a glittering career in acedemia.
    Incidentally – anyone taking bets against a government climb-down when when the media get their teeth into the burgeoning controversy over the English?
    Thought not.

  • Ron Todd

    A significant increase in the marks required for a pass and a very marginal drop in the number of passes. I think the teachers can still boast that like every other year since the left took over the educational establishment their teaching is getting better.

  • Arthur Seeley

    The point is that many of these students had been assessed by their experienced teachers as being capable of higher grades based on the criteria and rules laid down by the examining board. When across the board lower grades than expected from those assessments are obtained then questions are quite legitimately being asked. This isn’t just one student failing or one school failing it is almost universal. Have the rules been changed mid-way through the years? Has Norm referencing been used instead of criteria based marking? Has deliberate manipulation taken place for political reasons (such as provoking satisfied grunts from dinosaurs).
    If you want to raise standards and make the test harder by all means do so but let schools know what those standards and criteria will be in future so that schools can adapt properly.
    Personally I think this is politically motivated so that Gove can grab himself some Academies before being booted out in 2015 – or before.

    • Anatoly McGrath

      Grunts from Dinosaurs! I think the future of our childrens education is far more important than simply appeasing Realists. The obviouslly misnamed Education system has been letting our children down for bloody years with the stupid non courses and micky mouse uni degrees, Ebdon, Cable and the rest of the Liberal/Labour cabal should hang their heads in shame, we are flooded with immigrants with a higher standard of education who are snapping up work as the employers tell us they are better smarter even more literate for Gods sake than what our establishment are putting out. We better more committed teachers, ban the useless pc unions that represent them and introduce proper courses God only knows where we will find the Teachers we’ll need to correct 13 years of Labours vandalism though. But in the meantime keep it going Michael Gove. Thank God someone is thinking of the Children.

      • Arthur Seeley

        I know how difficult it can be to get your point over in a few words on these sort of threads but that does not mean that you are allowed to exaggerate to the point of untruth.
        For example: ” We are flooded with immigrants that have a higher standard of education…” Does that include all the Somalis on benefits, all those Chinese cockle pickers, all those Pakistani currry chefs, all those West Indian yardies and drug mules, all those Roumanian Big Issue sellers
        No, of course you do not include them, I know you do not, that but you did not exclude them.
        I agree with you about the silly degrees Universities offer. I have still to discover what Media Studies involves.
        Most of the teachers I know, and being an ex myself i know many, and they are most of them totally committed to the education of the children put into their care and I tell you that to blame teachers for all the faults there are in our system is to be wide of the mark.
        For years following successive governments of one colour or another we have had conflicting advice/ instruction from above. Goalposts moved, curriculums altered, adjusted and exams introduced new criteria advanced. It has not been easy and given the decline in the quality of children entering the system it does not get better.
        The school of which, in my retired years, I was a governor was receiving children at the age of -5 of British born white parents who quite literally were unable to communicate verbally with staff,( they did not know how to talk), did not know how to hold a knife or fork or spoon and could not dress and undress themselves.School and the busy life of a primary school is generally lively and happy was a bewildering world to these children who still brought there dummy to school with them.
        I am reluctant to generalise from this particular but I can believe that this is quite the norm.
        Curriculum derives from the Greek for race course. The educational curriculum is the course every child in this country is required to run.
        In a real race every starts from the same line. In education many children stand on that line, many are way out front, too many are many yards behind the line. Judge them if you will, judge their results, mock them but isn’t it more honest to recognise how hard some have had to run to get to where they are clutching their D grades
        Look further and deeper for causes, please. Too easy to blame the teachers who daily struggle to be heard bereft of any meaningful punishment.
        Consider the failed home backgrounds of many of these children, consider the impact of computers, Game Boys, mobile phones etc.
        Consider the diet, the lack of exercise. consider the celeb ethos engendered by a grubby media that drools over the Duchess of Cambridges new dress, Pippas bum, and Wiggins sideburns and make poor Mo do his silly mobot just to laugh at him.
        So so easy to blame teachers but so so difficult to address the many other contributing factors.

  • Austin Barry

    How dare the Conservative Party damage the self-esteem of rather dim bulbs who may, perhaps, be disadvantaged and need to be awarded meaningless pieces of paper. All must and will have prizes.

    • Arthur Seeley

      Not very clever sarcasm and if you believe the ideas that generated this piece of tosh you are the dim bulb.

      • Hugh

        The OECD believes the ideas that generated this tosh, and every academic study I’ve seen on standards also fits with pretty rampant grade inflation in previous years.

  • Mr Grumpy

    They’re not interested in taking your test because it’s somebody else’s problem. Perpetually improving grades=happy students and parents=popular schools=popular politicians. Grumbling academics? Who cares, everyone knows that come what may they’ll never vote Tory. It’s a perfect illustration of why we can’t do without a Nasty Party.

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