Just a day before the A level results are due out and not much more than a week before the GCSEs and we’re bracing ourselves for the inevitable war of words: are they better or worse, demonstrating dumbing down or improvement, vindication for the Coalition’s policies? Whatever, you can be sure they will justify Michael Gove’s plans for reforms!
I see my old chum Glenys Stacey (Mrs OFQUAL, to you) has waded in, criticising schools for entering students for more than one exam board for the same subject. She may have a point. It can’t be sensible to confuse children in this way but it’s the inevitable consequence of an accountability regime that relies heavily on one set of results. The impression has been – and is being — created, that schools are somehow scamming the system whereas what they are desperately doing is looking for some legitimate way of improving their exam performance. Who can blame schools for ‘early entry’, another strategy being used to maximise potential, or multiple entry? Why is entering something again somehow wrong? Should we deny a second bite of the ‘driving test’ cherry? Of course, the guiding principle should be what’s in the best interest of the child but schools will have been convincing themselves that their strategies are designed to do both. In my experience, entering ‘borderline candidates’ early so they can have a second chance if they miss out, is a sound strategy but it isn’t good for the candidates with higher potential as there’s a danger they might ‘settle for’ the Grade C when, with a bit more time and tuition, they might get a top grade.
We have been hearing much confusing nonsense about exams in the last few months and we’ll have to endure a lot more in the months to come. I’m intending a more in-depth exploration of examinations in the near future.