Friday 18 June was the deadline for schools across England to enter their GCSE and A Level grades. It has been a very challenging time for teachers, and students, and it remains to be seen whether this year will provide fairer outcomes than last year, when the algorithm took the blame. The truth is that the system created last year was hugely flawed, and an algorithm only does what it is set up to do. I think that I said last year that it was a system designed to be fair statistically, but unfair individually, and the weight of stories of individuals who had clearly been disadvantaged overwhelmed the media, and resulted in a rapid collapse of the planned system, as we reverted to 'Centre Assessed Grades'.
This year we have had so-called 'Teacher Assessed Grades' - a very unfair label, as all grades that have been put forward are not simply calculated by the class teacher, but have been moderated in departments, and then quality assured by schools, so we have favoured the term 'School Assessed Grades'. The key difference this year is that these have to be evidence based grades, so students have been busy doing multiple assessments to provide the evidence for their grade; last year, grades were estimates of what we thought students were most likely to achieve. Of course, in producing this evidence, students are given greater agency, but there is also the possibility of not achieving at the level that they would have wanted.
Every results day delivers good news for some, and less good news for others. Whatever system is in place, this is likely to be the case, and while there might be some examples of higher achievement nationally this year ('grade inflation' as the media will say simplistically), some students will still have to reconsider their pathway as a result of what they have achieved this summer. For some, their chances have been hindered by circumstances beyond their control (such as ill-health), and for these, schools apply special consideration, but even where this can adjust marks slightly, that does not necessarily mean that grades change.
So, will the outcomes be fair? This time there are far more checks in place than last year, so in simple terms, they should be fairer than last year, although the variety in methods used by schools suggests that there will still be some unfairness in the system. Will the outcomes be right? Again, with more checks, this is more likely, but even when there is a full set of exams, results are never all 'right'. Marking and moderation (from my experience of schools) has been more thorough than it is sometimes within the public exam system. Is future success dependent on exam success? This seems to me to be the critical question, and while some doors are opened by results, there are many and varied ways to be successful, and those who do best from an exam system might not enjoy as significant future success as those who do less well in that environment. This is why education has to be about more than league tables and grade boundaries - it is about developing people, and looking at the young people finishing at Felsted this term, I am proud to say that there are many who will be highly successful in many different ways in the coming years, and part of what will foster that success will be the incredible resilience and adaptability that they have developed during the course of the last 15 months.
Meanwhile, as we finish the internal grading for 2021, we now wait to hear what will be required for Year 10 and Lower 6th students, as they move into their exam years...
Have a very good week