I was at a very useful AQA meeting today on preparing to teach the new English specs. We’ve already begun delivering the new GCSEs to our year 9s and our long term plan is firmly in place. We’ve still got a lot of medium and short term planning to do, but I have a pretty clear vision in my mind as to how the KS4 course will pan out. The sessions on both Literature and Language were useful, focusing very much on the major differences with the legacy spec. There were no surprises here, but it was good to have my thinking confirmed as being on the right track. Even better, the timings were almost immaculate and we wrapped up well ahead of schedule (as well as getting break and lunch on the dot).
Which was lucky really, as there was one section which could have gone on for ever, had it been allowed to. Inevitably talk of the new mark schemes and criteria (which aren’t hugely different from the present ones) led to discussion of the new grading system and whether teachers could be expected to work with it when we have so little information as to what these new grades mean. At one point this very nearly spilled into haranguing of the poor AQA reps by one or two individuals. The reps understandably had to be quite cagy so as not to misinform us and be liable for giving us the wrong information.
But I really don’t see what the hysteria and distress is about; I’m sure too many teachers are over-thinking the whole thing. We know almost certainly that a 1 equates to the bottom of a G grade, a 4 is the bottom of a C grade, and a 7 equates to the bottom of an A grade. So surely we can just work it out roughly from there?
A lot of the worry seems to be over the fact that we have to report to parents come September. But is it really that difficult? Reports and predictions are only ever an informed professional judgement anyway; surely we can still make informed professional judgements using the new grading system?
Let’s not forget; we are subjective human beings making our best judgements against a set of criteria to predict the performance of other human beings in strange, artificially constructed conditions (i.e. exams); for goodness sake, let’s not get too hung up about it! There are too many factors that we can’t control and providing we’ve done our best we can’t beat ourselves up if we get a few of our predictions a bit out now and then. The grade boundaries change every year anyway; we are ever in state of uncertainty and transition and (I’m sorry to have to point out) it shall be ever thus.
When the grading ceases and the chalk dust settles (which it probably never will) the same percentages of students nationally will receive the same grades that they always have anyway, due to the hallowed bell curve. All we can do is stay informed, teach the kids to the best of our ability, and make the best judgements we can in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The content is the same; the percentages are the same; the kids are the same; the teachers are the same. I really can’t bring myself to lose sleep over it.
I’ve just read this: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hundreds-of-coasting-schools-to-be-transformed
In there it says this:
Schools eligible for intervention will be those which fall below a new ‘coasting’ level for 3 years. In 2014 and 2015 that level will be set at 60% of pupils achieving 5 good GCSEs or an above-average proportion of pupils making acceptable progress.
I am now worried that you haven’t been briefed about the word ‘average’ or the new (laudable) determination by OfQual to ensure GCSE grade inflation is halted. The thing is this: by definition there are only a limited number of places on the bell-curve that can be called ‘Good GCSEs’. You’ve decided to give a pejorative label (implicitly ‘Bad GCSEs’) to about 50% of all grades. Now, instead of Grades 1-4 at GCSE representing any sort of achievement, they’ve been killed stone dead. Nice work…
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