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Is it good news or a slap in the face?

By West Briton  |  Posted: September 20, 2012

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THIS August we saw a dramatic fall in the number of students gaining A* to C in GCSE English nationally. Typically this number has increased year on year, and it has sparked many debates around the current value of GCSE English in the job market.

But this year something different happened. Students who were entered for their GCSE English exam in June were subjected to much higher grade boundaries than those entered in January. Is this normal? Well, to an extent yes. Typically grade boundaries fluctuate from one to four marks per year, but this year some students needed ten more marks to gain a C grade than they would have needed in January. This is far from normal.

Many are accusing Ofqual (the exams regulator) and the Department for Education of interfering with exam board autonomy, insisting that they must have had a hand in this harsh change to GCSE grade boundaries (something which they both currently deny).

However, where this gets even more complicated is that the Welsh Government has now ordered that the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC), an exam board which offers GCSE English in England and Wales, re-grades all papers sat by candidates in June who took their exam at a Welsh school. On one hand this is great news for Welsh students short changed by the exam system and who are likely to see themselves move up a grade, but on the other it is another slap in the face for students in England who took the exact same exam and are offered no such opportunity (the Welsh Government cannot order a re-grade in England). Not only now do students in England face the fact that their entry later on in the year was marked more harshly, but they now also have to live with the fact that their counterparts in Wales have received fairer treatment than themselves, simply because of where they live.

This situation is a mess, leaving thousands of students in the dark about their true ability and more importantly placing their college and university places at risk. Michael Gove must swallow his ideological move to bust grade inflation and give students in England the re-grading that they deserve.

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  • josdave  |  September 20 2012, 8:21AM

    For many years now the exams have been getting easier year on year and it had to stop. There had to be one lot of students to feel it and it's this year's. My brother-in-law who was a head teacher has said for years now that the exams have been getting easier but successive governments plough on ahead regardless as they try to get more and more people into universities. Now at last it's come home to roost and while it may hurt some in the short term perhaps in the long term the qualifications will have better meaning. Far too many employers complain about applicants with exam passes totally unsuitable - even in some cases very bad spelling on their CVs - for employment.

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