Are we heading towards a situation in which some secondary schools will find it impossible to demonstrate improvement? This is a risky question to ask, given the very low tolerance of “failure” these days. This year’s GCSE results were slightly better, but stories are emerging of static, declining and dramatic shifts in performance, and of dismay from some heads. This type of turbulence has been going on for some years and may no longer be newsworthy, but we do need to understand the longer-term implications. There is a perfect storm of changes. The policy of “comparable outcomes” means GCSE predictions are based on primary test results. If a cohort of pupils exceeds expectations then the regulator, Ofqual, brings the GCSE grades into line. Improvement becomes a mirage as schools can only be as good as their intakes and one pupil’s exceptional performance needs to be balanced by another’s disappointing one. When news of this practice hit the headlines in 2012 Ofqual’s Glenys Stacey explained [pdf] that this might make it harder for “genuine increases in performance to be fully reflected in results”. She was right – but that is not all. The eradication of retakes, modular exams, coursework, speaking and… Read full this story
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