English GCSE

(25 Posts)
Sandy67 Sun 22-Sep-13 21:49:13

My daughter is due to take her GCSE's in May/June 2014. We were advised on Tues last week that the entire year will be taking their English Language GCSE in approx 6 weeks from now (November 5th). This will be ahead of their mocks in Jan. When I asked the reasons for this, the school advised it was because they were not happy with Ofqual's decision to scrap the existing exam format and would prefer the pupils to take the exam in before the changes take place in Jan 2014. Anyone else encountering this situation?

cricketballs Sun 22-Sep-13 22:26:43

It is happening at a lot of schools due to the withdrawal (mid course) of speaking and listening assessments as part of the course. if your DD doesn't achieve in November, then the school will re-enter her in the summer

Sandy67 Sun 22-Sep-13 23:16:30

Thanks for the post. I've been told if they don't pass they can retake the subject but as an IGCSE. I'm not altogether convinced that this is the best course of action. I also think parents and students should be allowed to decide whether or not they wish to opt for the new or old style exam. I really want to take this further with the school but I'm having trouble knowing where to go.

creamteas Mon 23-Sep-13 09:21:22

I also think parents and students should be allowed to decide whether or not they wish to opt for the new or old style exam

The changes were made by Gove Ofqual. There was a consultation although I suspect that this was just for appearances as no one who knows anything about education would have supported changing assessment part way through a course.

friday16 Mon 23-Sep-13 12:51:32

I'm not altogether convinced that this is the best course of action.

Suppose that the S&L tests were being handled honestly. There would be candidates for whom their likely exam score would be higher than their S&L score, so being awarded a result based on 1.25 times the score on the rest of the assessment would be beneficial. And there would be candidates for whom their likely exam score would be lower that their S&L score, so being awarded a result based on 20% of the result being the S&L and 80% the rest would be beneficial.

In which case, a school might (and it's this year only) decide to early-enter those pupils in the latter group. They would obviously be admitting that their teaching is a little bit rubbish, because they're saying that the additional marks from counting the S&L rather than scaling up the rest of it are worth more than nearly six months of extra teaching. But it would be rational.

But this is a school which, like others, believes that all pupils are better off with the S&L being included in their final score. All of them. And S&L is the only component in GCSE English which is not only marked internally, but because it's not recorded can't be moderated. Isn't that interesting?

no one who knows anything about education would have supported changing assessment part way through a course.

They would if there was substantial evidence that the marking wasn't fair. Why would you put another cohort through a situation where some schools are marking the S&L fairly, but others aren't? As Ofqual said:

"As we explained on our consultation, without (comparable outcomes), A*-C results would likely drop by between 4 and 9 percentage points. That, of course, tells us something interesting about the relationship between speaking and listening results and marks in the rest (80%) of the assessment in GCSE English. If 20% of the assessment can lift results by up to 9 percentage points, it means that many teachers are judging typical performances in speaking and listening to be better than those in other aspects of the subject. And because the nature of the assessments means there is no evidence for the exam boards to review, or moderate, there is no way to be sure that this difference is always justified."

creamteas Mon 23-Sep-13 17:39:26

They would if there was substantial evidence that the marking wasn't fair

But they found no evidence of this. What they found was many students were assessed as performing better than the other components, and they could not verify whether this was due to an actual difference in performance or not.

Personally, I believe that the vast majority of teachers are professionals who do not routinely cheat, or assist cheating to take place. I realize that this is not the way that Gove thinks.

I have no problem with them changing it for future students. Although this was not actually necessary as they could have chosen to record this element and send for external moderation rather than get rid of it.

But as it is worth 20%, schools should have spent 1/5 of the time on this element. If they organize the curriculum so this is all done in Y10, then the students have lost 10% of all the teaching time for this GCSE. This is extremely detrimental to current students

friday16 Mon 23-Sep-13 17:50:17

Personally, I believe that the vast majority of teachers are professionals who do not routinely cheat,

So you then need to explain the massive spikes in CA marking around the January 2012 grade boundaries seen in June 2012. Why would CA marks cluster just over the January grade boundaries? Paragraphs 6.80 through 6.83 And why were so many students entered early for the exam, with the CA to follow for cashing in by June? The obvious conclusion is that given an exam mark and the (assumed) grade boundaries, you can therefore exactly determine the CA mark required to get people over a grade boundary, and do what it takes to get them over that line in the sand. What's the non-cheating interpretation?

If they organize the curriculum so this is all done in Y10, then the students have lost 10% of all the teaching time for this GCSE. This is extremely detrimental to current students

So early entry in November, losing 25% of the teaching time, is a rational response to the loss of 10% of teaching time? Why isn't teaching the children for an extra six months and then having them take the exam in June preferable to them taking the exam in November?

creamteas Mon 23-Sep-13 18:35:35

The Ofqual Report is not worth the paper it is written on. They made a political decision to cut grades and, because of the protest, retrospectively, have manipulated the stats to 'justify' their intervention.

At the same time as Ofqual/Gove is claiming widespread exam irregularities artificially inflating grades, Ofsted was claiming that too few children got good grades (see here). They can't both be right!

Why isn't teaching the children for an extra six months and then having them take the exam in June preferable to them taking the exam in November

Curriculum and assessment should be developed together, you should not change one without changing the other. These means that the assessment that the children were preparing for has effectively been withdrawn. So the last entry is in November.

If this is not successful, then they are being entered for a different exam in June.

friday16 Mon 23-Sep-13 19:13:02

Curriculum and assessment should be developed together, you should not change one without changing the other. These means that the assessment that the children were preparing for has effectively been withdrawn. So the last entry is in November.

Well, the school my Y10 child is at has just shrugged its shoulders and said people need to do a bit better in the exam. If the school the OP's child is at can now fit 24 months of teaching into 18 months then they're showing an enviable flexibility. And then prepare the children for another, different exam in six months, too.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Mon 23-Sep-13 21:40:53

As someone teaching in a school that scored significantly below average for Speaking and Listening ( 10%+) it all concerns me.We scored very well overall but I cannot believe that our pupils who achieved B/C on CA/Exam are so weak. It is almost as if people are living up to billing and marking up. We are leaving all to June since this year our S and L ( accurate I believe) marking was counter productive.

creamteas Tue 24-Sep-13 09:13:42

the school my Y10 child is at has just shrugged its shoulders and said people need to do a bit better in the exam

Unless you school does early entry, it is not a problem for Y10. They have just begun studying for the new syllabus.

It is Y11 that have the problem.

friday16 Tue 24-Sep-13 09:35:34

I conflated the timeline. My child's just started Y11, but the discussion (including at a parents' evening) about the changes was last year, when she was in Y10. She has already done the S&L task, and done well in it (high A*).

I still don't understand how entering her to do the exam in six weeks' time (from a standing start in September, given the school involved don't appear to have reacted to the original announcement) could be justified.

I think the current weighting is 40% exam, 40% CA and 20% S&L, and the new weighting is 60% exam 40% CA. In which case, a child who gets 60% UMS in the exam, 60% UMS in the CA and 100% UMS in the S&L (ie, a borderline C candidate who excelled in the S&L) would get 68% UMS under the current weighting, but 60% UMS in the new weighting. But that's an extreme case: a more plausible C borderline candidate who got 80% in the S&L would get 64% UMS. I guess there could be candidates who are below the C borderline but excelled in the S&L task, for whom this effect would be magnified, but unless there is Something Afoot they will certainly not form a majority or even a large minority of a cohort. And there will of course be candidates who did worse in the S&L than the average of their CA and terminal exam scores, for whom removal of the S&L component will be an active benefit.

The implicit justification for early entry in November 2013 rather than June 2014 is people cannot increase their performance in exams and CAs by less than half a grade, given an extra six months' teaching. That doesn't say very much the school's confidence in their teaching.

creamteas Tue 24-Sep-13 13:35:40

In many cases (including the OPs) they are switching to IGSE for the June exams.

Obviously schools will have different reasons for doing this. One of them is likely to be that IGCSEs currently seem to be subject to less political interference.

So the reason for Nov entry is to give them a shot at the exam given the work they have done, but this is no longer the main examination route.

friday16 Tue 24-Sep-13 13:57:13

In many cases (including the OPs) they are switching to IGSE for the June exams.

So let's get this straight. They don't feel able to prepare children for a the same syllabus, re-weighted, given nine months. There is no extra work, but some has been removed, so the remaining work has a slightly higher weighting.

But they do feel able to prepare children for a different syllabus, given the same length of time. And they do feel able to compress the remaining nine months of the previous scheme of work into six weeks, in order to be examined in November?

According to that bastion of Gove-ite reaction, the Guardian Education section, the good word is that iGCSE is easier at around the C boundary. (source) (source). And that other bastion of hatred to teachers, the Times Education Supplement, concurs (source) How's about that then, boys and girls? The TES story, in particular, nails the lie that it's a more "rigorous" qualification; quite the contrary. And the account in that Guardian Secret Teacher blog of the need to get children to go, unprepared, into an iGCSE English Lit exam just in order to bolster the stats is pretty shameful, isn't it?

creamteas Tue 24-Sep-13 14:51:20

I think you are missing the issue. What makes you think that schools are changing because they believe it is easier?

Round here, the switch is being made because students and teachers need a qualification that they can prepare for without being shafted for political reasons.

Ofqual can't be trusted with with standard English GCSE anymore.

noblegiraffe Tue 24-Sep-13 15:01:15

If I were an English teacher I wouldn't trust the powers that be to not manipulate grade boundaries down next June to show that the exam without the speaking and listening component is obviously so much more rigorous.

Because they have pissed about with grade boundaries before.

friday16 Tue 24-Sep-13 15:09:41

What makes you think that schools are changing because they believe it is easier?

Because the proportion of iGCSE passes at C have massively increased over the past few years?

creamteas Tue 24-Sep-13 15:28:30

Because the proportion of iGCSE passes at C have massively increased over the past few years

First rule of statistics. Association is not causation.

Previously this exam could not be offered in state schools, so it was not taken by children of all abilities. Consequently, any change in grade could have been caused by this demographic shift.

friday16 Tue 24-Sep-13 19:30:38

Previously this exam could not be offered in state schools, so it was not taken by children of all abilities. Consequently, any change in grade could have been caused by this demographic shift.

It could. But children who took it in 2012 were not entered for it out of some view on political interference, because the political interference that people are so exercised about hadn't happened. And the iGCSE is rising particularly amongst low performing 11-16 schools that do things like BTEC Science, so the claim that it's a zeal for academic rigour is far-fetched. And there hasn't been a parallel rise in other iGCSEs which are equally "free from political interference".

greyvix Tue 24-Sep-13 23:46:26

Friday, you are assuming that the extra teaching between November and June would be focused on the English Language exam. Sadly, it wouldn't. Students also have 2 novels, 1 play and 16 poems to prepare.
Maybe the decision to enter in November would allow more time to focus on literature, while giving students the chance to benefit from the 20% of the course they were more confident in ie speaking and listening.
Also, the reason that schools have taken 4 weeks to react to Ofqual's announcement is because the controlled assessment they had completed was valid for June, not November. It is a last minute change by the exam boards that has allowed flexibility here.

friday16 Wed 25-Sep-13 07:06:50

Maybe the decision to enter in November would allow more time to focus on literature,

Maybe six months reading text and writing about it might have some impact on candidates' ability to read text and write about it?

greyvix Wed 25-Sep-13 20:06:08

Who knows? Teachers make the best decisions they can in circumstances that are not ideal. At the end of the day, everything is a compromise, but teachers have the best interests of their students at heart. They should not have been forced into a corner by a qualification that changed halfway through the course.
I hope, for the students' sake, that other goalposts such as grade boundaries do not change again, as they have for the past two years.

friday16 Wed 25-Sep-13 20:20:31

I hope, for the students' sake, that other goalposts such as grade boundaries do not change again

Since when have raw score grade boundaries ever been fixed? It's impossible to set exams, under any sort of equivalent outcomes basis, where the raw mark boundaries remain fixed. All it would take would be be one "rogue" question on one paper and the entire cohort could drop substantially. You cannot, seriously, be asking for fixed raw mark grade boundaries in a national exam. Could you point to any time in history when national exams have not been moderated and scaled? Where there are not examiners' meetings to set grade boundaries (or raw mark to UMS equivalencies, which amount to the same thing)?

greyvix Fri 27-Sep-13 18:53:41

I am just asking for students to be treated fairly. I totally understand the rationale for having flexibility for the exam; my son sat the Edexcel A level Maths paper in the summer. However, controlled assessment has also been affected, so that neither teachers nor students know where they stand. A student could enter the exam feeling confident with his controlled assessment, get a C in the exam, but end up with D overall.

Dominodonkey Fri 27-Sep-13 23:55:26

friday are you Michael Gove? You are clearly not an English teacher. Firstly, boundaries were set for course work before the changes to exams a few years ago. A c grade essay was a c grade essay. Now the same quality essay could get different grades depending on which year it is submitted. Clearly unfair.
The removal of S and L was unfair because it was half way through the year. Some of my students spent ages preparing for presentations which now mean bugger all.
And I do believe that s and l marks were sometimes given generously by teachers but it is also true that many lower ability pupils are better at speaking than writing. Most teenagers can speak in coherent sentences but far fewer can write in them. Surely that is not difficult to understand.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now