What about pupils at turnaround schools?

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Ofqual released its guidance on how GCSE grades for the 2020 cohort would be awarded on Friday.

This has caused much controversy and debate. 

I think awarding 9-1 GCSE grades this year is a mistake.

Rather than go into all the reasons I think this, I’ll point towards this thread by Alex Ford, and towards Matt Pinkett’s brave and clever tweeting on how bias is likely to compromise the accuracy of teacher judgement.

I agree with all of what both have said.

While I understand the reasons for it, awarding of GCSE grades as if this were a normal sort of year is a flawed idea and should not be happening.

But it is.

Calculated grades are the bet we’ve gone with, and were it even possible to reverse the decision then the confusion and further uncertainty this would cause would make it a bad idea.

We have little choice but to make the best of it then.

Again, I have very little to add here. This blog by Kristian Shanks, and this one by Chris Baker offer helpful advice on how to make the best of a bad job.

Like everyone else I’ll be doing my very best to follow the instructions ethically and accurately, and hoping very much by doing so the pupils at my school will get what they deserve in the summer.

But I am anxious because Ofqual guidance suggests there is a chance the results of some schools may be moderated down because in previous years their exam results have been worse than how pupils would have done had they sat exams this year.

I understand why this check has been put in place.

Given we are committed to the idea this year’s results should have parity with results in previous years, there is the likelihood if teachers predictions were not moderated then results across the country would be higher than in previous years.

This inflation would make higher grades worth less and so disadvantage the entire cohort.

I get it.

But this leaves us with a very big problem for pupils at schools which have genuinely improved significantly.

How can these schools make sure their pupils do not get lower grades than they would have got had they sat exams in the summer?

If Ofqual is to realise its aim in replicating the spread of results from previous years then it needs a mechanism to find schools which have improved rapidly, because every year there are schools that do and were it to let pupils at these schools slip through the net then it will have failed in its aim to replicate a normal year.

Before going on it is important to recognise how manifestly inadequate the suggestion pupils in such schools should have to sit exams in the autumn is. By this time pupils will already be on Post 16 courses and the idea they subject themselves to exams in every subject in which they were ‘calculated’ to have done worse than they would have done after months out of school, having never finished their course is cruel.

Instead Ofqual must provide a straightforward appeals process for any school believing the moderation process has resulted in an inappropriate spread of results for its pupils. Ofqual, if I have understood the guidance right, has already suggested it will do this and I eagerly wait for news on what this will look like.

I hope it is rigorous. I hope it is smart enough to work out which schools might be trying it on and which have evidence that demonstrates awarding grades to children based on the poorer performance of other children would be a great injustice.

For now I’m content to leave things here.

In the absence of more detail about the appeals process, which I expect to be forthcoming, it would be silly of me to get all het up and angry.

I really hope there is a process. I really hope it is fair as it can be.

And if it isn’t I hope those working at rapidly improving schools do not let this go. I hope they, politely, constructively and relentlessly pursue all avenues. I hope they refuse to be paternally told an injustice hurting children at their schools is inevitable and to be endured for the greater good.

I hope they don’t need to fight that hard.

But if there is no fair process I hope pupils at schools affected know the reason their teachers never gave up was because of how much they believed in them.

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