Thursday, 16 August 2012

A-level should not be a political football - it's not fair on the players!

As with the National trend reported in the Press, Berkhamsted's A-level results are down a little on last year.
It is disappointing, but it was no surprise. The jungle drums have been beating for weeks that the Secretary of State wanted the headline that this Government had put an end to grade inflation - and he got it. There is little doubt that there was top-down pressure on chief examiners. Members of the teaching staff who are A-level examiners commented that there were tighter marking directives from Chief Examiners than seen in previous years.
There is a fundamental problem in implementing a "reduce the top grades" policy and that is that AS-level accounts for 50% of the overall A-level grades. By the time a typical Berkhamsted pupil takes their final A2 modules, he or she is often sitting on a high A grade (with marks to spare) that means that he or she only needs a B or in some cases a high C grade to attain an overall A grade. To manipulate the results means moving the A2 goal-posts a long way.
This is not just special pleading from a disappointed Headteacher. Berkhamsted is not alone. Many schools are experiencing the same phenomenon. The Admissions tutor for History at a leading Russell Group university commented in an email today:
“My personal impression is that History seems to have been rather harshly marked across the board (lots of students with glittering GCSEs and AS levels, suddenly falling short at A-level)."
And that brings me on to University Entrance

University Entrance
Michael Gove picked a bad year to move the goal posts, for the changes in HE funding meant that universities were pushed into giving offers of at least AAB to qualify for the higher (£9k p.a.) funding. It is quite apparent that Gove’s fiat has caught University Admissions tutors on the hop.
The situation in Berkhamsted at 1800 yesterday was:
  • 67/147 met first choice offer (46%)
  • 46/147 met reserve offer (31%)
  • 34/147 missed both offers and need to use clearing (23%)
The situation at 1300 today was:
  • 109/147 met first choice offer (74%)
  • 23/147 met reserve offer (16%)
  • 15/147 missed both offers and need to use clearing (10%)
42 (28%) pupils missing the the grades for their first choice university being offered places is unprecedented. Again, Berkhamsted is not alone - a number of other independent schools have experienced the same phenomenon.
So, despite all the angst of the past 36 hours we are back to where we should be with a lot of happy pupils and parents who have got into the universities of their choice.
But was it all worthwhile? Mr Gove may have got his headline, but he has gone a long way to undermine the confidence of teachers in the system. Pupils who have worked hard for two years end up with a bitter taste in their mouths as their hard work is not recognised by the examiners.
A-level should not be a political football - it simply isn't fair on the players!

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