The biggest exam board in England has again raised the boundary for a C grade in last month’s GCSEs English resits, prompting concerns of a repeat of the situation in June where many thousands of pupils received lower results than they expected. This is from the Guardian…
A teacher contacted the Guardian to say a number of her pupils who had been on the D/C borderline in June got a D in the resit despite doing better in both units they took again.
One teaching union, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), among a group challenging the June results in the high court, said there were fears of another “statistical fix” in the resits.
Just under 50,000 pupils retook part or all of the qualification, many of whom had received lower-than-anticipated grades this summer after exam boards increased the grade thresholds between the January and June exam seasons, a decision that caused fury in many schools. About a third of the D students resitting in November have now got a C.
AQA, the biggest exam board, which accounted for 32,000 of the resits, said the C boundary for unit two of its GCSE English Language qualification – a speaking and listening element marked internally within schools – increased by two marks out of 45 between June and November. The board said this was partly balanced by a reduction of two marks out of 80 in the C threshold for unit one, an externally marked written paper.
However, the reduction came only in the so-called higher-tier paper, sat by those seeking a C or above. The C boundary for the foundation tier paper, more usually taken by pupils expected to be on the C/D boundary, was unchanged.
The speaking and listening element accounts for 20% of the overall GCSE result, with 40% from the written exam and another 40% from a series of so-called controlled assessments, also taken in schools. Because of time pressures in holding controlled assessments again, most resit students only took the first two sections.
An AQA spokeswoman said the boundaries were always set after papers were marked by the board’s awarding committee. She said: “It comes down to the standard of the work and where the examiners feel that the ground boundaries ought to be set.”
A teacher at a London school, who asked not to be identified, said the boundary change had again seen pupils she had assumed would get a C miss out. The threshold for a C in the speaking and listening unit had gone up from 25 out of 45 in January to 28 in June and now 30, she said.
“That’s an 11% increase between January and November,” she said. “It seems to me that even if children improve, some of them are not being allowed to pass because it isn’t politically expedient. It looks as if the boards are fiddling the statistics to get the results they want.”
Some of her pupils who had previously been on the D/C borderline did better in both the spoken and written units but still missed out on a C, she said. “I had a whole load of students come to me yesterday with their results going: ‘But Miss, you said I improved, I got a better mark – why have I still got a D overall? What can I do now? I don’t understand?’ Some of these are big teenage boys and they were really upset.
“You’ve been given certain grade descriptors and you try to be professional and try to judge the children fairly and that should be enough. What’s the point of giving us these criteria?”
These pupils will now have to retake the entire GCSE English syllabus from scratch before June, while also studying for A-levels, she added.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the ASCL, said the union had heard anecdotal evidence of similar issues elsewhere. He said: “This sounds like what was referred to in the court case as a statistical fix. It’s a moving target all the time.
“This is a massive problem. People have just lost confidence in the system now. What we’re getting is feedback from teachers saying, what is a C? It comes back to the fundamental issue that a particular grade should be of a particular standard. Any teacher should be able to look at a piece of work and judge it at that standard, not having to second guess.”