The verdict of Ofqual's initial report on GCSE English and English Language, released today, is that the June 2012 results are correct whereas the grades awarded in January 2012 were too generous. This is a cause for serious concern. The verdict and the reasoning to support it fall well short of answering the questions raised in the minds of schools and pupils.
More broadly, the need for this review and its result heighten concerns harboured by HMC over several years that the GCSE examination, the role of awarding bodies for GCSEs and the relation of these bodies with Ofqual are as they should be.
This year, HMC has noted with dismay the impact upon both schools and individual students of changes made to grade boundaries at GCSE level. Although many schools within HMC enter students for the International GCSE in many subjects, there is nevertheless a significant number taking home-based GCSEs. Very many of these schools report serious concerns relating to this year’s results.
Meanwhile, a long-standing concern of HMC, to which Ofqual and the Awarding Bodies have yet to give serious attention or adequate explanation, is large variations in the higher grades awarded for individual schools from year to year for various GCSE subjects including,but not confined to, English and English Literature. In addition, we remain unconvinced that the process through which candidates may challenge results through appeals is safe given its focus upon procedures rather than the quality of marking – so often the root cause of error. Furthermore, a key reason for the movement of independent schools towards International GCSEs is the belief that the home-based version remains an inadequate preparation for more advanced work.
There is far more wrong with our examination system than unexpected adjustments to grade boundaries.
Chris Ray, HMC Chairman (Mobile: 07415 131926)
Peter Hamilton, Chairman, Academic Policy Sub-Committee (Mobile: 07595 488142)