Thursday, August 13, 2020

A dog's dinner

 As a retired teacher who taught both GCSE and A level students, I know what a nail biting time it is when the results come in. It is a nervous time for both pupils and staff. Your reputation as a teacher is at stake as are the pupil's futures.

This year was going to cause major problems because schools were closed during the exam season. 

As it happens, apart from GCSE and A Level Photography, the subjects I taught were mostly course work based. Even so, my students would have been short of the assignments scheduled for the Summer term. For subjects that are assessed purely on end of course exams, this was going to be much more of a  challenge. 

The solution was to ask teachers to provide assessments of how well their pupils would fare if they had taken the exams. These grades would then be moderated to ensure that standards were maintained year on year. This is a process that happens anyway, even when pupils have been able to sit their exams. 

However, what seems to have happened is that the results have also been adjusted to take account of the school's previous performances. In the case of schools in well heeled, middle class areas this may have worked - just - but for those from disadvantaged areas it could spell disaster as was evidenced in the Scottish results. 

In Scotland, there was a U turn with the teacher assessments, even if they were generous, being carried through. 

In England, the idea is that pupils can appeal and have the results of their mock exams taken into account. If they are still not happy, they can take the exams in Autumn. 

Clearly, whoever thought this plan out has never taught in schools. Mock exams are used by many teachers to prompt pupils into action. In other words they are deliberately set or marked at a higher level than the final exam. I saw this regularly in the schools where I taught. A pupil who was given a D in their mock would achieve a C or even a B in the final exam. Very rarely did they do worse.

Some say that the opposite is also true i.e. teachers are generous in their marking of mock exams to encourage pupils. I can't say that I ever saw this happen. In Liverpool, if you told a pupil that they should get a C and they ended up with a D, their parents would be at the school the next day. If you told them they's get a D and they were awarded a C, then they'd  bring you a present. 

How this will all be resolved is hard to say. What I can say is that it has the potential for not ending well. 

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