The fallout from a decision by the United Kingdom’s Ofqual to begin recentering GCSE grades last spring continues well into this fall.
After seeing that one in four secondary schools saw a 10% decline in A* to C GCSE grades following use of the new grading procedure, the clamor to regrade the exams using the same guidelines in use last year grew much louder. And it is expected to get louder still with the release of data that shows that several schools, including some that are considered to be the highest-performing in the country, suffered a 20% fall in top GCSE grades this year.
The decision to change the boundaries that defined each of the grades came about because Ofqual believed that the quality of GCSEs was eroding. An increase in the number of top grades from year to year pointed to grade inflation, which made it harder to use the exams to compare student quality from one graduating class versus another. However, as an acknowledgment that the adoption of new standards might have been too abrupt, the agency has agreed to allow some of the students affected by the new system to retake their exams, if they so choose.
Those who have criticized Ofqual in the runup to the exams and following the release of the grades feel that resitting the examination will not correct the fundamental problem, and that the only solution is a wholesale regrading of the exams with the boundaries used for last year’s GCSEs. To force Ofqual to do that, a group of councils, schools and teachers unions are seeking to have the decision to recenter the exam scrutinized by the judiciary.
Unless the review is successful, or Ofqual backs off its recentering plan, resitting the exam will remain the only means of redress. The Daily Telegraph reported that many students are eager to take advantage of the opportunity, and an estimated 45,000 pupils plan on retaking the English exam next month.
Ofqual, the official qualifications regulator, is to investigate marking standards, quality control and the differences between competing boards as part of wholesale investigation into the exams system, it was revealed. The disclosure came as it was claimed that teachers were routinely taking on marking duties at 5am before the school day and even checking scripts in the pub “over a pint with the football match on in the background”. The watchdog will make a series of recommendations early next year into how to improve accuracy in the marking of some 15.5m exam scripts each summer.