Tag Archives: Ofqual

How to Improve school standards – cut classes

Improving academic A-Level standards over time has been a constant goal over the last few years, but it would seem that schools have been taking the wrong approach to achieve this.

Schools were closed by COVID from mid-March 2020 to the time of writing in August 2020, meaning that pupils missed a term and half of normal classroom teaching. Efforts were made to close this gap by ‘Zoom’ and similar mechanisms (but only for those with access to communications and equipment, and a place to study quietly at home – tough for kids in a ‘two up, two down’) but it would appear that, far from being disadvantaged by this, pupils’ attainments reached new heights.

In private schools, the more esoteric subjects like Latin and Greek saw a year on year improvement of 10% in the number of A/A* results – an unheard of jump. However, for more run of the mill subjects, the improvements of teacher assessed grades were, in the words of the regulator, Ofqual, ‘Implausibly high’. Based on the assessments, A level results generally improved overall by 12%; those attaining A/A* levels would increase to a new level – a breathtaking improvement in educational standards.

One of Ofquals tasks is to maintain consistency across years to allow (for example) in variability in the difficulty of question papers, and so it tweaks the pass percentages by grade band. However, this year this process was inadvertently more transparent, leading to the downgrading of many of the teacher estimated results. Inevitably, there were howls of protest from education liberals, teachers, Labour and of course, pupils.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, backed down in the face of the howls, and accepted the higher, subjective and inconsistent teacher assessments, learning yet again that if there is one thing worse that getting everything wrong, it’s admitting it and doing a U-turn, as you still get flak even having fixed the problem.

If we follow the logic of these attempts to square a logical circle with regard to results, the strategy next year should be to have classes in the latter half of the year and then let kids study at home (or in the park) and do a few Zoom lessons until spring, and then award results based on ‘implausibly optimistic’ teacher assessment.

In the event that some academically undeserving youngster does get a place on a degree course they have no realistic chance of completing, what happens then ? Make a 2.2 degree the lowest degree level? Fortunately, commerce is not subject to the constraints that politicians are, and ex-pupils – who have been done an immense disservice by these events – will learn the hard way with their P45 that their employer won’t be inflating their performance at work to keep them happy, and will show them the door.

In Grumpy’s eyes,the standout individual in this saga is Angela Rayner, shadow First Secretary Of State. This woman, who left school pregnant at 16 without so much as Girl Guide badge as a qualification said just a few months ago that teacher predicted grades were not accurate and caused injustice. Now, with a U turn which makes Gavin Williamson’s look like a sideways glance, she was recently doing the rounds urging a return to teacher assessments. What changed ? Nothing, but it does illustrate that politicians with no obvious qualification to comment hope the electorate have short memories and that there are no bounds to the extent of their hypocrisy.