Time and chance just keep happenething

An update to Friday’s rather mournful contemplation of my students’ prospects if I’m forced to comply with the decision from on high that unless I can guarantee they’ll get a C or above, they won’t get entered for the exam.

They are all Foundation Tier candidates. Which means, barring a barnstorming performance in their Controlled Assessments (CATs), the maximum grade any of them can get is a C (and if their CATs were that good, they’d be entered for Higher Tier). So we’re looking at students at the bottom end of what is being termed “acceptable”.

I’ve crunched the numbers. And it isn’t good.

Mathematically, assuming that all students get 100% of the marks available in the exam, and 100% of the marks available in the remaining CATs, then they are all capable of getting a C. But that’s not very likely, especially since AQA have expressed how much they don’t want to see Band 5 results for Unit 2 (Speaking & Listening).

There are 205 marks available in total (125 from the CATs, and 80 from the exam). Without knowledge of where the grade boundaries will lie this year, predicted grades are difficult, but we can assume that 60% is the minimum for a C, or 123 marks. Assuming they get the minimum marks in the exam to get a C (48) then they need to get 75 marks out of their CATs to get a C.

I’ve extrapolated what marks they are likely to get based on what they already have.

Only one of my 19 will get above 75 marks from the CATs, if the extrapolations are accurate. So strictly speaking, only one of my 19 should be entered for the exam.

Another three with some pushing could get there, and I am prepared to stick my neck out and say that they can make it, and I will risk being held professionally accountable if they don’t.

The others? There are a few Fs and Gs who could perform better and get Es, maybe Ds. And one or two who will only get a U, none of whom surprise me, and who are students I was considering not entering for the exam in the first place. They are students better served gaining a Functional Skills qualification and going on to sit their GCSEs next year.

What kind of education is it to allow only 20% of my students to sit an exam, in return for 100% “success”, where success is defined statistically, without considering whether grade D-G is actually a success for some students?

I understand why we’re doing it. The department is on notice to improve results, as they are below the national average. But that statistic ignores why we get the students we get (deprived area, generally students re-sitting or because they couldn’t get in at a “better” place). We do not attract the academic top flight, but as with every other place of education in this nation we are supposed to be education factories, churning out a predictable year-on-year increase in A*-C results, since education is mechanical and students aren’t human but mere “empty vessels”. Since we are judged on a league table, not on what is best for our students, then their successes are unacceptable if they fall short of an idealised version of success. Fall short too often, and we’ll simply stop offering the GCSE. It solves the problem of lack of “success”, but reduces the educational opportunities available to our students, demoralises staff, and puts jobs at risk.

With that sort of pressure, we do what every place of education does. Skew the results. Want an increase in success? Only enter those guaranteed to succeed. Those not guaranteed? Well, if they never tried, they can never fail.

This isn’t education and this isn’t success. And it sure as hell isn’t fair. What it is, is 30 years of flawed education policy which ignores what education is for, and forces teachers to be statisticians and economists rather than educators.

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