GCSE and A-level overhaul ‘will lead to drop in grades’

The Telegraph is reporting warnings from exam officials that grades could drop this summer as the exams system struggles to cope with a radical overhaul of GCSEs and A-levels…

The complete shift towards end-of-course exams for the first time this year – combined with the abolition of tests sat in January – has put severe pressure on an “already creaking” system, it was claimed.

Andrew Harland, chief executive of the Examination Officers’ Association, said the sheer number of tests being sat in 2014 has led to timetable clashes and problems accommodating candidates.

He claimed difficulties witnessed this summer may have placed added pressure on pupils, leading to a decline in grades.

The comments come just a week after Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, wrote to every school in England warning of “more variability” in results this summer compared with 2013.

Ministers insist that changes to the structure of exams are intended to free up more teaching time earlier in the academic year, developing “in-depth and lasting understanding” of subjects.

But Mr Harland told the Times Educational Supplement that pupils had been treated like “guinea pigs”.

“Very experienced exam officers are saying, ‘this is the hardest year we have ever had’,” he said.

“Everybody feels under stress – the teaching staff, the senior management, the awarding bodies – and at the bottom of the pile are the students. You can’t treat them as guinea pigs.

“There are clashes and there have been continual issues over accommodation, and we see on the ground how that impacts on students. Results could be adversely affected. I think we will see it in the statistics.”

For the first time this year, bite-sized modules and coursework have largely been abolished, with all tests being taken at the end of the two-year course. At the same time, previous exam “windows” in January and March has been closed, forcing all pupils to sit them in May and June.

The moves have been made to clampdown on the continual assessment of pupils through the academic year and create more time for teaching. It also means pupils have less chance to resit exams.

But Mr Harland said the practical difficulties of administering some 15.5 million exam scripts had created problems in schools, with many pupils being crammed into exam halls and forced to sit back-to-back tests to squeeze them all in…

More at: GCSE and A-level overhaul ‘will lead to drop in grades’

There seem to be two issues here: whether schools/the system will be able to cope logistically with all the changes that have been introduced, resulting in more erratic grades, and whether grades may drop overall. It seems extremely harsh on this year’s entrants if results are less likely to reflect what they deserve because of administration errors or whole school learning issues, but how much of an problem is it if grades are lower overall than in previous years? Is that actually any less fair than when grades were going up every year? Please let us know what you think in the comments or via Twitter and take part in our poll…

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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove It’s a given results will drop as a result of political tinkering; not fair on students or schools who’ll get it in the neck

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Ministers from the DfE and Ofqual have combined to make the English exam system a laughing stock

  3. diasporahighsch

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Have always advocated that DfE should operate as indp body to advise every govt, not the other way around.

  4. andylutwyche

    diasporahighsch SchoolsImprove Quite – sensibility doesn’t often enter the thinking when it comes to government

  5. JoyPMason

    It is unfair to students who have worked hard all year and done as much as others in previous years, have the same ability but will be considered to have not done as well.

Let us know what you think...