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45% of students set to receive an 'unreliable' English GCSE grade on Thursday

(74 Posts)
noblegiraffe Sun 20-Aug-17 19:34:50

Well this is a worrying story.
Basically, due to marking inconsistencies, especially in a subjective subject like English, grades which fall close to a grade boundary are unreliable, because a different marker could have legitimately marked it differently.

The majority of students used to receive a grade A*-D, so 4 grade boundaries. Now that will be from 9-3, so 6 grade boundaries. As the number of grade boundaries increases, the number of students who fall close to a grade boundary and thus have an unreliable grade increases. This represents an increase from 30% of grades being unreliable to 45%.

The article suggests that grades should be scrapped, as the difference between a 79 and an 80 is slight, but one mark could get a B and the other an A, which will be viewed differently.

Obviously the same problem will affect maths, but the marking is usually more objective.

Jaimx86 Sun 20-Aug-17 19:40:25

From examiners that I've spoken to, I can certainly imagine this is the case. Edexcel are allowing all scripts to be downloaded free of charge; they might regret that decision!

noblegiraffe Sun 20-Aug-17 19:42:56

They'll be glad of the rule change that means that marks can only be changed where there is an actual marking error and not simply a difference of opinion about how the mark scheme should be applied.

ReinettePompadour Sun 20-Aug-17 19:47:50

I think providing a 'certificate of high school education' would help prevent this. Maybe saying you followed a higher/intermediate/basic pathway instead.

forfuckssakenet Sun 20-Aug-17 20:08:51

Is the marking done online? Are there no frameworks for consistency? In Scotland I've found they are quite thorough with trying to ensure all markers mark to the same standard. Would have assumed England was the same?

MrsLandingham Sun 20-Aug-17 20:24:20

Experienced Team Leader and examiner here.

forfuckssake there are many frameworks for consistency. There are face to face meetings and there is online training. There are detailed mark schemes and careful monitoring. There is spot checking. But with the best will in the world, English Language and English Literature are always going to be, to a certain extent, subjective.

SoPassRemarkable Sun 20-Aug-17 20:27:11

Dd got a 2 for her mocks, both English papers.

Her tutor who marks for three exam boards saw her papers and said she'd have given her a 5!

I'm dreading Thursday.

MrsLandingham Sun 20-Aug-17 20:29:41

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound snippy. It's just that TLs and conscientious English examiners work very hard, and it's inevitable that there will sometimes be a genuine difference of opinion about how the mark scheme should be applied. There is a small tolerance built into my exam to account for this. A lot of monitoring goes on to try to minimise discrepancies.

noblegiraffe Sun 20-Aug-17 20:41:15

Yes, should point out that the unreliability is due to valid differences in opinion in applying the markscheme, not due to crap marking. There will be a band of marks either side of a grade boundary in which you can't genuinely say 'this B grade candidate definitely did better than this C grade candidate', because on a different day with different markers, they could have both come out with the opposite grade and neither sets of grades would have been changed on appeal.

Witchend Sun 20-Aug-17 21:07:25

I may be being naïve, but hasn't this always been the case for things like English and art where there isn't a right/wrong answer. One reason why I like maths.

It takes me back to secondary school where dsis looked at my English teacher in year 8 and said "just so you know, he's a really tough marker, 10/20 is okay with him, and 16/20 is absolutely amazing".
She's way better at English than me, but that year I don't think I got lower than 16/20 and was often 18 or 19/20. All the other teachers marked her much better over the years. We concluded that, for some odd reason, he liked my style better.

If we went to marks then they'd have to standardise them so across years (eg) 50% was approximately the same standard. I think that would be better-it would take a certain amount of pressure off in that dropping an odd mark would be a mark down, rather than potentially a grade, a university offer etc.

FrenchRoast Sun 20-Aug-17 21:37:47

Doesn't surprise me, it's how I believed English was marked all along....

woman12345 Sun 20-Aug-17 22:00:16

The more intensive English exams appear to have caused difficulties for examiners, with some parts taking longer to mark than the previous format – with the largest exam board, AQA, upping payment rates for examiners by 50% and exhorting teachers to mark more papers.

Another exam board, Edexcel, offered markers discounted rates on books sold through its parent company Pearson as an incentive.

Examiners who contacted the Guardian said the problems this year were mainly due to the new English GCSE paper taking longer to complete, suggesting a sprint to finish marking the 500,000 entries.

An email from AQA sent to markers on 30 July said 70,000 scripts on one of the components of the English exam were still unmarked. While the results are published on 24 August, the boards and Ofqual require several weeks to prepare for publication, especially the crucial task of translating raw marks into grade boundaries for the new exams.

“It always goes close to the wire but 70,000 is really quite a lot. I don’t recall it ever being that number with other exam boards,” said one examiner, an experienced English teacher.

Another examiner, the head of English at a state school, said: “It seems clear to me that they did not have enough examiners to mark this year. I know this because as a head of department, I was relentlessly contacted by different exam boards to recruit my colleagues to mark, even after the exams had been taken by students

woman12345 Sun 20-Aug-17 22:11:24

^Robert Coe, a professor in Durham University’s School of Education, said that in some cases a child’s grade will be “not much more than chance^”.

^But the trade-off is that it is more likely to be wrong, with people awarded a grade that they shouldn’t have. When you start to look, it is quite alarming. Individual subject grades can make a huge difference to someone’s whole life course. They really do matter.^”

&Last month it was revealed more than half a million pounds of public money is to be spent on explaining the new numerical system, following widespread confusion over what the changes mean in real terms^.

In addition, another £121,500 is set to be spent over the summer publicising the reforms, according to information released in response to a parliamentary question.

errorofjudgement Mon 21-Aug-17 07:09:05

This whole debacle gets worse.
I have a DD looking to take 3 essay subjects at A-level. She is predicted a 7/8 in her English exams and If she doesn't get the 7 in English then I know she will be heartbroken. and it will affect her confidence going into 6th form.
And potentially could impact the university choices she has in 2 years.

DoctorDonnaNoble Mon 21-Aug-17 07:22:12

It's a total nightmare being an English teacher at the moment. Particularly with the new ruling on appeals. The wording of English mark schemes is so vague for longer answers that I imagine a change in marks will now be very rare indeed.
Add in that we were only told at the end of year 10 that students would need GCSE (rather than IGCSE which we had been studying) in English Language to receive funding for A Level and it's all been quite the return from Mat Leave (how I ended up with a Year 11 this year gone is a WHOLE other story!). I am, quite frankly, dreading Thursday. @noblegiraffe 's posts usually cheer me up. Not this time. Oh to be a Maths teacher!

JufusMum Mon 21-Aug-17 09:22:11

Poor DC's! My DD was in such a state having being forced to take Lit a year early in Year 10 aged just 14, had a meltdown in Paper 1 and had to be removed from the exam to blow into a paper bag and now this. Joke.

noblegiraffe Mon 21-Aug-17 12:08:11

Oh to be a Maths teacher!

Oh to be a teacher of a subject that hasn't changed yet! Now that A-level results are done I'm starting to get really worried about Thursday. My class were 3/4/5 kids so what they get will really matter for the school and I have no idea what they will get. I have brief daydreams where they all get 5s (hah, no chance, some of them had a quite challenging Y11) and I'm carried into the first INSET day on the shoulders of SLT, but then the shadow of them all failing and me being fired for extreme incompetence takes over.

But at least I will have some confidence in the marking being accurate so I don't have to worry about that on top of grade boundaries and student performance on the day.

noblegiraffe Mon 21-Aug-17 12:35:57

Dear god, just read this in the TES. "For the first time, this GCSE results day we will have results we can rely on"

I guess he hasn't read the article about grade boundaries and unreliability, or the last minute mad rush for markers, or the ridiculous adjustments needing to be applied due to the Romeo and Juliet fiasco. What a pleasant bubble to be in.

woman12345 Mon 21-Aug-17 12:49:57

Local English adviser in a conference on the new GCSEs in 2015 said of the results in 2017: "It will be a bloodbath". Poor DC's absolutely. sad

CancellyMcChequeface Mon 21-Aug-17 13:07:27

Does anyone know what's actually being done over that 'Tybalt hates the Capulets' question? I know that some candidates corrected it and others tried to answer it as written (which must have been absurdly difficult and led to bizarre answers) so I can't see how it can be fairly marked.

MrsLandingham Mon 21-Aug-17 13:15:48

They were expecting something like a 23% drop shock in the English Language pass rate until the government fudged it in the spring and said that 4 would count as a 'standard pass'.

Bastard Gove. I had to cope with three new specs at once - GCSE English Language, GCSE English Literature and A level English Literature .For the latter we had one specimen paper throughout the whole two year course. I don't know what I would do if I ever met him.

noblegiraffe Mon 21-Aug-17 13:17:55

cancelly here:

Basically they're bodging their way through the various scenarios and hoping that schools will pick up any major issues by remarking the papers.

DoctorDonnaNoble Mon 21-Aug-17 13:18:02

@MrsLandingham I know what I'd like to do to him but he isn't worth the jail time.

Notanothergiraffe Mon 21-Aug-17 13:28:40

This is very worrying. DS got a 7 in his first mock, then scraped a 3 in his second one shock. Did one more and got a 5! It really could be any of them, fingers crossed that he gets someone who likes his style and answer rather than someone who doesn't as it appears that could mean two grades. He needs a 5 for the A levels he wants. Fingers crossed 🤞 I think we just all want it over now.

noblegiraffe Mon 21-Aug-17 13:29:25

More news: AQA will not be putting exam marks on results slips so if your DC wants to know how close they were to a grade boundary for remark purposes, they'll have to ask their teacher.

(This already happens for maths, but I'm not sure why, and rolling this out further but for reformed GCSEs only suggest that they are trying to limit the number of remark enquiries by putting an extra barrier in).

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