It’s impossible to compare GCSE results, so don’t try

The Tes reports that the new system makes comparisons with previous years impossible – heads and governors need to communicate this, argue Geoff Barton and Emma Knights.

In case anyone wasn’t aware, this summer’s examination results season is going to be “volatile”, especially for GCSEs. How do we know? The chief regulator of Ofqual, Sally Collier, has said so. In a recent speech at an examination symposium, she warned that “individual schools could experience more variation than normal”.

We think it’s important that everyone knows this – everyone, except students. For them, results day this year should be what results days every year really ought to be – a celebration of what, after 11 or so years of schooling, they have individually achieved. This day should be a symbolic marker of the transition from one phase of education to the next stage of life. For most students and their teachers, any results day should be one of joy.

A fresh start was one of the main tenets behind Michael Gove’s decision to call for a new suite of qualifications with a 1-9 marking system. The idea was to ratchet up standards and to use a grading system that made like-for-like comparisons with previous years impossible.

Whether we agree or not with that decision, and especially the resulting speed with which teachers and school leaders have had to work to implement new syllabuses, new schemes of work and new marking samples, this year’s GCSE results day will mark the beginning of this new era.

And, as Ms Collier says, although the national stabilisers of “comparable outcomes” will hold the number of new grade 4s at a similar level to old grade Cs, there is likely to be considerable volatility within a range of subjects in a range of schools. Indeed, some schools are likely to see significant surprises in their results. That’s why we want all governors and trustees to be aware of the changes. We echo the chief regulator’s “no knee-jerk reactions” mantra.

So as results season approaches, it’s most definitely time to hold our nerve, and also to focus on the only thing that matters – the individual successes of our students. They, after all, are the ones for whom these results matter. They are the people we should concentrate on. Here’s to their success.

Read more It’s impossible to compare GCSE results, so don’t try

Are you and your students ready? Is it possible to not compare? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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