Like you, I’ve been following the many comments on the GCSE results with interest over the last few days. Let me see if I’ve got this right: the problem with the system, the one which needs most urgent attention, is the way those teachers and those schools have tried to get the best results for their students and their schools. Apparently, they’ve been following the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again” when in fact, if children fail an examination once they should be told to give up. Taking an exam several times with the aim of getting a better grade, including the illusive grade C, is now called ‘gaming the system’, which sounds very much like ‘cheating’ to me.
The same goes for all those children who schools have made sit the same subject lots of times with different exam boards. Of course, all the exam boards are exactly the same, OFQUAL having ‘maintained standards’, so what are you whinging about, Mrs Stacey? Stories of young people taking eight different exams in the same subject sound a bit dodgy anyway, since there are only four exam boards in total. They also all agree to have their exams for the same subject at the same time so quite how you manage to sit, say, GCSE Maths with AQA and OCR I don’t know. I agree, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but if schools, who, after all, are now trusted to know best what best suits their pupils and parents (well, as far as deciding term dates is concerned) think it’s a good idea, then why not? It’s not in the best interests of children, eh? Well, let the schools decide that, thanks Mrs Stacey. The same ‘caring’ argument is suddenly being used for children taking subjects EARLY. Coincidentally, I was today reading the OFSTED report for a school which was PRAISED for doing this. It clearly can be in the interests of certain children, in the right circumstances – as before, it’s up to the schools to decide.
‘Freedom for schools’ is a ‘good thing’, until the ‘powers that be’ don’t like the outcome. What I don’t like is the clear implication that schools, trying, as I say, to do the best for the kids and, yes, trying to get the best results for themselves so they avoid falling into Mr Gove’s trap door and re-emerging as an academy, are cheating. Let’s get back to discussing the very real problems with the accountability regime that have grown up under successive governments and which are not being addressed. After all, I think we all know who has been ‘gaming the system’.