Posted on 28th September 2012
And the GCSE Saga Continues…
Usually GCSE results tumult has calmed down by the end of September, but not this year. As regular followers of the blog and readers of education news will know, this year there was a great deal of controversy over the GCSE English results as the grade boundaries were radically shifted between the January and June exams, leaving many pupils with significantly lower grades than expected.
Since the debacle there have been calls for all the scripts to be marked, for pupils to be able to sit a special retake in November, and major debates about whether GCSEs are now defunct. The latest development is that Steven McKenzie, a senior figure at the exam board AQA, has resigned, saying that shifting the grade boundary was, ““the worst decision ever made by AQA”. He also boldly told the BBC that he, “could not go on working for them - to be frank AQA English has fallen apart.”
McKenzie’s resignation letter was also particularly colourful, and he said that the way AQA had handled the GCSE situation was “morally repugnant” and “disingenuous”. According to McKenzie, “We have in this whole sorry business the classic social disaster scenario; mismanagement succeeded by chaos, hurt innocents succeeded by collusion between official bodies to suppress the reality of the disaster.”
He also referred to the messages in the texts that most GCSE pupils study, such as, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Crucible, and An Inspector Calls in which “ordinary but principled people stand up for social justice at whatever cost.” The prominence of these text and their moral didactics in the GCSE English syllabus and the length that they have been at the heart of the examinations makes the handling of the whole affair by the examination boards particularly ironic and disappointing indeed.
When the GCSE results first came out it was not clear who had told the exam boards to change the boundaries, if anyone. However emails between the examination board regulator, Ofqual and Edexcel have now been leaked, which show that a fortnight before the results were published, Ofqual told the boards to change the boundaries.
It is unlikely that we have heard the end of the story, with teachers and unions threatening legal action against the boards. We’ll be sure to keep you informed about any further developments.