The Government must offer clarity on which options it is considering to make GCSEs and A-levels as fair as possible this year, writes Nick Pietrek
Political posturing is not what our school pupils need right now as the debate rages about exams next summer. I would encourage Gavin Williamson to offer some genuine clarity on the options that are being considered by the Government and by Ofqual.
However you look at what is being proposed in Wales and now by shadow education secretary Kate Green, a lack of consensus about next summer is creating discord and a sense of inevitable unfairness to some groups. It does look increasingly as if anyone who lives below the Midlands is going to be penalised for where they live.
I hope people can see the proposal from Kate Green for regional differences in the way GCSEs and A-levels are graded for what it is.
Her idea of applying “special consideration” to children who missed out on learning time actually only gives an extra 3 per cent (thereabouts) to an individual, so it is really not as grand a consideration as she is making it out to be.
Sadly, the situation right now with a mixed economy of approaches and regional circumstances, is unfair but there is little way of getting around it. Let‘s be clear – the notion that someone who has done less than someone else but can still get the same grade or better is obviously wrong and will completely undermine the integrity of any grades for future employers.
“Lord Baker summed it up perfectly in saying, ‘It is a real muddle quite frankly.'”
That the exam boards are even considering a “regional dimension” once again demonstrates how they are quick to capitulate when put under a bit of pressure. AQA seems to be at the front of this development but even Colin Hughes, chief executive, recognises the unfairness this could generate. It is at least reassuring that they are not jumping in with both feet – yet. Mr Hughes also highlighted the logistical challenges, bordering on impossible, to genuinely consider this proposal.
We are still overlooking the key issue, that many schools are not going to have finished courses adequately and that pupils progressing to the next level of their education, whether it be A Levels or university courses, are going to be under-prepared for the demands of those courses.
Where will that leave us all in a few years’ time when we have people trying to do jobs without having learnt all that they needed to learn? When are we going to start addressing this issue?
These are difficult times. Our children have to be our priority because they are our future but let’s not make this a political game. I hope our politicians, exams boards and those who can make the decisions will genuinely look to collaborate and come up with a working strategy that is fair for one and all.
Centre Assessed Grades are certainly beginning to look as if they will once again have their part to play next summer but will they be submitted alongside exams? They would alleviate anxiety but fairness and parity for those being awarded grades next summer will be questioned for the rest of their lives.
Lord Baker has summed it up perfectly in saying, “It is a real muddle quite frankly.”