Education

The government has failed students this year by refusing to acknowledge teacher predictions

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If you don’t trust the assessment of teachers across the country then why ask for their input in the first place?

I stood ready to get on my soapbox about the government’s handling of A-level and BTEC results when I saw the results which my A-level groups received yesterday and was quietly pleased. There was very little difference between the results I predicted and the results which students were allocated. However, after talking to my colleagues across the county I discovered a rather alarming trend.

There was a great disparity between the grades teachers had predicted for their students and the grades which were actually awarded. It appeared that the larger the class, the larger the downgrade, thus meaning that greater weight was given to teacher predictions if they had smaller class sizes.

The effect of this trend – which was picked up on by former Shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls on Twitter: ‘How could Education Ministers and Senior Officials possibly not have spotted that giving greater weight to teacher assessment in smaller cohort sixth forms would bias results towards private schools and against large sixth form colleges?’ – will mean several things for students across the country.

Firstly, it means that students studying more popular subjects will be more likely to have their results lowered. It also means students taking vocational subjects, which traditionally have bigger classes, will also be more likely to have their results lowered. How can this be fair?

It could also affect areas where there are not many A-level providers. For example, in Harlow where I live, there are only two places in the town where you can study at Key Stage 5 level. How can it be fair that your A-level results are dependent on where you go to school or college?

My real concern as we now move forward into next week is that if this trend is carried over into GCSE results. Key Stage 4 classes on average are much smaller in independent schools than in state schools, which of course means that students from less well off families will be incredibly disadvantaged.

Sadly, we have seen over the last decade the lack of faith that the Department for Education has had in our profession. Like the majority of teachers in the UK, I gave accurate GCSE grade predictions and it will be my students, and others around the country, who will miss out if the Department for Education decides to arbitrarily assign grades based on the results of students from previous years. This is not acceptable and doesn’t reflect the abilities of current students.

Everyone knew that grading students this summer was going to be tough, but we cannot ignore the government’s failures. Not only did they decide to scrap AS level exams partway through A-level qualifications, but they also made qualifications more exam based and less coursework based. That, coupled with this flawed government algorithm to decide A-level grades, is another example of how they have let down a generation of young people.

Finally, let me say to all those who received A-level and BTEC results yesterday and who will receive their GCSE results next week, your grades don’t define who you are and please don’t let them affect your hopes, dreams and ambitions moving forward.

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