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Can someone who is in favour of cancelling GCSE explain that view point to me?

(15 Posts)
Cathpot Wed 07-Oct-20 22:33:46

Just chatting with a friend- she is also secondary , different end of the country, she is English , I’m science. Neither of us want the GCSE cancelled but she was telling me there is currently some very busy lobbying going on at high levels for this to happen. I really don’t get it.

I realise some kids have been severely hit by lockdown and these issues are ongoing . Even in my school where we got off lightly, the gap between our disadvantaged kids and the rest of the school has widened hugely. However , if we cancel exams and go with teacher assessment that gap is still there. If we give them a realistic grade - and we have to do that or it’s all nonsense - the outcome is the same. On top of that last year I did feel the grades I gave were fair- I had taught those kids for a year an a half , done lots of marking, they had sat exams. This year my exam groups had me for half of year 10 and whatever we get this year. I don’t know them nearly as well. Plus I’ve been given a new class at the start of their year 11 as their teacher left. I’m doing as much setting and marking of exam questions for them as I can because I don’t know them at all at this point. They have a mock in November I’m hoping they get to sit which is on year 10 work. Normally this exam would be a learning opportunity - a chance to really dig into exam technique problems - I don’t want to suddenly have to use their grades now towards an final grade. What if teachers in other schools are more lenient or set exams on more recent topics. It feels far worse than this summer. Am I missing something really obvious?

OP’s posts: |
FortunesFave Wed 07-Oct-20 22:59:14

I can't comment from a teacher's perspective but here in Australia I've realised they don't even have an equivalent of the GCSE and the kids here manage fine. They're older when they come to their exams. That's better in my opinion.

Hercwasonaroll Thu 08-Oct-20 07:34:50

I'm with you OP. I'm a maths teacher and really not wanting teacher assessment. Exams are not fair every year. Kids get tutors, have different classroom experiences etc. However teacher assessment is too subjective and not comparative across schools.

Cathpot Thu 08-Oct-20 07:50:10

I’m listening to R4 now and there is a man on who I think is a Head of a number of schools- saying scrap all exams and saying we can do it all on coursework externally marked. What coursework?? Where is this coursework going to come from?

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Cathpot Thu 08-Oct-20 07:55:42

fortunesfave I’m not particularly hung up on the system we now but cancelling the exams is different from changing the education system to a different model. We are an 11-16 school and our students need their grades to move on to their next stage of education or training. I don’t have robust data on the exam year group at the moment due to lockdown, I can’t magic up coursework and I can’t see how my assessment of where they are , changes where they are.

OP’s posts: |
echt Thu 08-Oct-20 20:13:05

Worked in secondary in the UK for 25+ years and in Australia for 14.

While there are some differences between the states/territories, they all have the exams in the last year of schooling and are no worse because of it. Better, I'd say, they bring more experience to the exam. In Victoria everyone has to study English through to the exam.

No need for GCSEs at all, in my opinion though careful choices have to be made about the kinds of Maths and English to be studied at higher level as it is here at VCE.

Kashtan Thu 08-Oct-20 20:33:57

I’m with you OP, yes the disadvantaged kids in general have done less than the advantaged ( despite our great remote learning provision inc iPads, dongle and food parcels, but not surprising) but another year of bodged up grades does nothing good for anyone, and if it announced now opens the doors for loads of horrendous kicking off in class and squabbling about every assessment.
Of course if a country already has a system in place that doesn’t involve age 16 testing then it will work, but in England ( especially with our totally incompetent government) we cannot get a robust system in place between now and next summer.

looseddaughter Thu 08-Oct-20 20:46:23

The fact that some schools may have to shut their Y11 bubbles several times, and that some individuals inside those bubbles may have to isolate, perhaps more than once, while others may have no time off at all, makes traditional exams completely untenable this year.

Hercwasonaroll Thu 08-Oct-20 21:53:52

By that argument, coursework is no better. If they aren't in school they can't do the coursework.

Cathpot Thu 08-Oct-20 21:58:36

So in that situation where a child has missed year 11 time as their bubble has been sent home and they aren’t accessing the home learning for whatever reason- we would all agree that their education - and crucially the grade they would get in an exam- has been significantly impacted. If you then ask the teacher to grade that child what are you asking for ? A grade reflecting where they are in reality (ie several grades lower than you would hope in a normal year) or a grade of what the teacher thinks they would have got if Covid hadn’t happened? Let’s say a child who previously had a shot at a 4 with a following wind and a kind paper, and now will likely scrape a 2- what do you give them? Are we asking for an assessment of the facts they know or assessment of their potential ability in the subject ? Given the child has missed lots of face to face time and supervised assessments- what will we base that on?

When talk of cancelling exams comes up no one seems to have a plan for what we do instead which is what makes me twitchy. I like to plan ahead- to know where my focus needs to be in class. At the moment that’s getting through the rest of the syllabus at a brisk jog in time for summer exams.

In practise the rug may be pulled out from under us at any moment either by Covid or the government and that’s unsettling.

Anyway, I’m not in this much of a flap day to day, it was just this morning listening to news reports I came over all WTAF and ranty.

It may be that there is some well thought , well resourced and timely plan with the exams that will appear tomorrow and I can get back in my box and shhh.

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Hercwasonaroll Fri 09-Oct-20 06:12:33

I completely agree. The time the students are in school they need to be learning maths. I need to assess them accurately in that time too and coursework is not the answer (for maths).

Exams are never fair. Coursework was a running joke in maths and promptly scrapped. Other subjects may be able to use it and rigorously assess. I don't think maths can.

Clarabellawilliamson Wed 14-Oct-20 16:11:25

I don't see why it has to be all or nothing, I think there are sensible changes that could be made to exams to make everything more fair. For example- a return to modular exams- in January students sit one of a choice of papers for each subject, schools could select which is most appropriate depending on what content has been delivered. Even if exams are still all or nothing in the summer there's no reason why they couldn't have an element of that, some subjects already do- answer ONE question from part A, and ONE from part B it would need some work and the exam boards would have to get on it quick, but it's not impossible!

Cathpot Wed 14-Oct-20 17:43:05

I just don’t think there is enough lead up time to start messing with the format . Let’s say you are going to put important exams on for science in January in a modular approach - I need to know right now what they will be on because at the moment that’s not in the teaching plan. Plus someone has to produce those exams and I don’t have any insight into the process of writing exams but my impression is it is quite involved. Kids who are currently well behind the curve will still be behind the curve in January- I’d much rather have as much time as possible between where they are now and the final exams. In my subject we don’t necessarily teach all the units in the same order as other schools. Some units underpin others . Some units are very full of maths relatively speaking. Some children would not cope with choice in an exam if that’s not what they are used to. It may be more straightforward in other subjects I don’t know. No one really has a definition of what is ‘more fair’ at the moment either.

I presume they will need to shift grade boundaries around , maybe at the lower end scope up more children so they don’t fail. I don’t think any solution is perfect. I’m happy to take the extra 3 weeks that’s in the current plan but now I’m gently worried about the loss of the half term break in the middle of the exams- both as a teacher and a mum of a year 11.

OP’s posts: |
Clarabellawilliamson Thu 15-Oct-20 18:59:15

Yup, I'd want to know right now too! For what's its worth I agree with all of those concerns, and I'm glad I don't have to come up with the solutions! I certainly don't want to give CAGs for this years year 11. If I did lots of low stakes testing I might be able to rank everyone again, but god knows what algorithm would be used!!! Doing UCAS prediction for students I have met in person three times was hard enough (year 12 and 13 do alternate weeks at school and on Microsoft teams from home) I REALLY don't want to have to assign their actual grades!

cptartapp Thu 15-Oct-20 19:13:10

I have a year 11 and year 13, they've been sent home to self isolate three times between them already. DS1 is still only in college two days out of five. Other colleges locally are in full time and students have never been sent home. Online provision for DS2 throughout lockdown too, was poor.
Having said all that they're both bright with good memories and have parents that will push them to catch up. Therefore I selfishly hope that although not a level playing field, exams do go ahead as for us, I think we'd do better than predicted. DS1 certainly exceeded his mock predictions two years ago across the board.

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