Hampshire headteachers left 'staggered' after '11th-hour changes' to assessing student exam results

HEADTEACHERS have been left ‘staggered’ at ‘11th-hour changes’ to assessing student exams results following a dramatic announcement by the government.

Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 4:01 pm

Such was the confusion, educational leaders across the region were unsure if education secretary Gavin Williamson’s statement late on Tuesday was even official policy.

The minister revealed how students will now be able to use mock test results as their final grade following an appeal if they are unhappy with their result.

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The Cowplain School headteacher, Ian Gates. Picture: Sarah Standing

Mr Williamson, in an announcement on the government website, spoke of a ‘new triple lock process’ to give ‘young people added security as they receive their grades this year’.

It means students could accept their calculated grade based on teacher assessment, appeal to receive a valid mock result, or sit autumn exams.

Ofqual, the examinations regulator, has been asked to determine how and when valid mock results can be used to calculate grades, the government announced.

Mr Williamson said: ‘Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they have been treated fairly.

‘By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure confidence and fairness in the system.’

Headteachers were not impressed with the timing of the announcement, though, with A-level results due tomorrow (Thursday) and GCSEs a week later.

Ian Gates, headteacher of The Cowplain School, said: ‘It is completely ridiculous - the government has had five months to sort it out and now make changes at the 11th hour. It is a crazy situation.

‘I don’t think the government has an idea how mock exams work. They are done about six months before the real exam. There is no standardisation from school to school and is just one thing used to predict a result.

‘The mock exam result is often lower than the exam result as you would expect students to improve. I have no real belief the change will work.’

Stewart Vaughan, headteacher of the Priory School in Southsea, said the move was a ‘recommendation’ to Ofqual but that ‘doesn’t mean they won’t accept it’.

He said: ‘To make this request at the 11th hour and just 24 hours before the A-level results is staggering. At least we have a week to get our heads around things before the GCSE results.

‘If it was a good idea then someone would have come up with it in the last five months so to break it like this is amazing.

‘No-one runs a mock exam with the same approach. They are quite a useful predictor on the trajectory to the final exam but schools do exams differently so there is no standardisation.

‘It is disappointing they don’t just listen to teachers on what they think students’ grades should be.’

The move – less than 48 hours before students receive their calculated A-level results following the cancellation of actual exams amid the Covid-19 crisis – comes in the wake of a U-turn by the Scottish government.

Scotland’s education secretary, John Swinney, announced that moderated grades would be scrapped following a massive outcry after more than 124,000 results were downgraded.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister for England, acknowledged that the government was ‘concerned’ about what had happened in Scotland but insisted the system in England remains ‘robust’.

He said that only a ‘small number’ of students would be affected by the change and insisted that ministers have nothing to apologise for by acting so late in the day.

Both Mr Gates and Mr Vaughan felt the sudden announcement was a ‘desperate’ response to the Scottish situation with the government attempting to ‘guard against teachers predicting too generously’.

Critics of the Scottish situation also claimed it was based on a ‘postcode lottery’ as it took in their schools' past performances.

This resulted in accusations that high-achieving pupils in low-performing schools would lose out - particularly discriminating against young people in deprived areas.

Mr Gates added: ‘The government’s strange amendment is to mitigate against kids in schools who are improving but have lower results than other schools who could be penalised by the system and get lower grades as a result.

‘The Covid-19 situation is a one-off and they just need to trust the teacher’s judgement.’

The view was echoed by Julie Summerfield, headteacher of Horndean Technology College.

She said: ‘The government should just accept this year is a very different year and take the teacher grades.

‘We’ve spent weeks going through our assessments before ranking students. We are professionals and know what we are doing - the government should trust us.’

The teacher added: ‘I think Year 10 will be at the most disadvantaged next year because they lost out on a third of their course following lockdown - which was more than Year 11.’

Sarah Bennett, headteacher of Crookhorn College, said: ‘In light of the government’s announcement we are now making sure that we have our mock results available for students if they wish to have them on results day next week.

‘It is the priority of the teaching staff at this time to make sure we are as prepared as we can be for the students next week.

‘As soon as we get the latest update from Ofqual we will be sharing this with parents and students, so as a community we are all aware of how the government is planning to deliver results for the GCSE qualifications this year.

‘It is without doubt a complicated and stressful time and so it is imperative to support the students as much as we can.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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