It's been a quiet mnoth - sorry - but welcome back! While I've been away, GCSE and A level results have been published, and have been accompanied by the usual furore about education. Are teachers getting lazier? Are children not as 'bright' as they used to be? Should we be teaching to the test? Are examinations reliable and valid measures of anything? The answers to all these questions is 'no'.
But in this post I'd like to think about the new grade 9-1 GCSE grades. The CGP website (https://www.cgpbooks.co.uk/gcse_grades_9_1_explained) suggests that GCSEs are 'tougher than ever'. This diagram is the really useful CGP explanation of the new grading system for Mathematics, English Langauge and English Literature.
What the diagram shows very clearly is that there is a finer degree of grading and separation at the top - grades 5,6,7,8 and 9 equate to the old B, A and A*. And a grade 4, which sounds pretty mediocre (especially to those of us old enough to remember the old CSE 1-9 grades), is in fact equivalent to a GCSE pass at grade C.
Apparently over 2000 students got grades 9 in all 3 subjects - mostly from elite grammar schools, according to yesterday's Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/08/24/meet-students-defied-gcse-predictions-scoring-clean-sweep-grade/). Given that there were over 5 million examinations sat (a scarily high number), which is about half a million students (possibly even 600,000 - the exact figures are not yet available) - that 2000 isn't a very large proportion.
So what does this tell us about inclusion, about the value of process, about students who are unlikely to get grades 6 to 9? Does it suggest that we put more emphasis than we used to on the importance of being 'gifted'? Are we moving back to the days of Cyril Burt? And is this 1-9 system just a precursor to the reintroduction of selective schools across the board? Is a 4, or what Justine Greening calls a 'standard pass' very different from a 'strong pass', a 5?
There are, as always, 'more questions than answers'. But yet again, we are back to the fundamental question about the purpose of examinations and indeed of education in general. These are key discussions that I've addressed in this blog before - and we need to be asking them of the government and leaders in education.
And finally, The Guardian has a great analysis that's worth looking at, it's at https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/aug/24/proportion-of-students-getting-good-gcse-grades-falls-after-reforms
I was a psychology and social sciences teacher for many years and now I am in the throes of a teaching and research career in HE. I care passionately about education. This blog will show you why and how.