The Sunday Times has reported that government is facing a row with teachers and unions over a fall in vital GCSE exam results after years of rising grades…
…The change follows demands from Michael Gove, the education secretary, for the exam boards to set harder A-levels and GCSEs to counter complaints that they have become too easy. This week the A-level pass rate will plateau before it begins to fall under reforms ordered by Gove to make the exam harder, including a ban on re-sits and huge reductions in coursework.
The unions are considering a legal challenge if they believe the results have been distorted by Gove’s “unfair” interference with GCSE standards, which they say could penalise thousands of candidates and damage their prospects.
“It isn’t fair because a B grade last year and a B grade this year may not be the same, but employers won’t understand that, in 2013, exams were made more difficult,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.
“We are ready if necessary to question the results with the regulator, the chair of the Commons select committee and Michael Gove. We do not rule out a legal challenge.”
Since 2000, the proportion of children gaining a C grade or higher at maths GCSE has risen by about 1% a year, from 49.2% to 58.4% in 2012, when they levelled off. There has been a similar increase in the science subjects.
One exam board chief confirmed that after being asked to raise standards in GCSE science, regulators were expecting a lower percentage of children to get grade C or above this year. Some schools could see big drops in standards.
In maths, examiners have been told to raise pass marks in some syllabuses because of concerns that the grade boundaries last year were “set at such low marks” that pupils were given grades that their work did not deserve.
In English GCSE, head teachers warned that they were unable to give pupils accurate grade predictions this year following the last-minute raising of pass marks by exam boards last year. The higher grade boundaries imposed by the boards caused outrage in schools as thousands of pupils failed to secure predicted A to C grades. It prompted teacher unions and councils to mount a legal challenge against Ofqual and the exam boards that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Gareth Pierce, chief executive of the WJEC exam board, defended the tightening of exam standards. Asked whether it was fair for a child who might have got a B grade in science in previous years to find it more difficult to get the same result this year, he said: “The changes are linked to the importance of ensuring the credibility of GCSEs and hence their standards. Taking these actions will really protect the value of GCSEs and A-levels, which is a fair path for ministers and regulators to pursue.”
A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times this weekend found that most people supported Gove’s tough stance: 41% of those polled said A-levels had become easier over the past 10 years. More than half — 53% — agreed that it was right to introduce a tougher exam regime.
Are the complaints that tightening the requirements are unfair credible when few made the same comments when grades were going up every year – surely that was equally unfair, but to those who sat the exams in previous years? Or is this the wrong way to tackle the issue? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on twitter…