Friday 26 June 2015

GCSE English 2015

I have now analysed GCSE results for the best part of 20 years.  This was a fairly predictable job, generally a slight increase year on year (the headline was usually "Best Results Ever!"), until August 2012 when suddenly it all changed and without warning GSCE English went down by two or three percent.  Since that incredible day I have kept an eye on this situation.  In 2014 I believe that there was a one or two percent drop in GCSE English when looked at by progress from Keystage 2.  These may sound small percentages but a 1% drop is over 3,000 pupils.  

I have during this year become increasingly concerned about the 2015 GCSE results and the effect on the system that a substantial number of learners having switched to English IGCSE would have. Are we facing a potential 7% drop in the pass rate this year for GCSE English?  This Ofqual document shows that there has been a 7% drop in GCSE English entries for 2015

IGCSE’s it can be argued are more accessible for Pupils with lower prior attainments and 60% of the qualification is made up of speaking and listening and coursework. They are really well suited for many learners and it is fantastic that they provide a route to success for many pupils.

The Government sets Floor standard for Schools as the link shows  I believe that the majority of learners that have switched to the IGCSE come from schools where this floor standard is a significant issue.  Put this another way I suspect that the majority of learners that have switched will have a lower prior attainment. I am not as yet able to prove this point.

The GCSE pass rate is approximately 70%. Exam boards are under huge political pressure to maintain a high standard and will be reluctant to increase the pass rate.  (The 2018 approved qualification list is yet to be published.)  If it remains at 70% then many learners who without the national switch over would have achieved a C grade will drop to D or lower.  Upscale this to all boards and it is 20,000 young lives hampered.   If the cohort that sit the exam have a higher prior attainment the expectancy is that the pass rate will go up by I am worried that exam boards will be very reluctant to do this. It will be a brave exam board that increases its pass rate by 7%.  Looking at it from the other point of view, if the IGCSE remains with a pass rate of 66% with a cohort of lower prior attainment is that fair?

The above has been on my mind, mentioned on tweets and mentioned to colleagues for the last few weeks.  I was so glad to see this Ofqual blog -
 The worries that I have had are being looked at by Mrs Stacey at Ofqual.  Having read this I then went through the links and came across the Data Exchange link.  This is a fascinating insight into what is happening to regulate GCSE outcomes – it is all very impressive.  I was though then worried when on page 14 it states for IGCSE “There are no reporting tolerances applied”. Is this fair?  I am new to looking at all this so please look yourself at how tolerances are applied or not.

Ofqual are certainly fully aware of this issue and the information that they are publishing is fantastic. This issue will be with us this year and next year but will not be there in 2017 when the new GCSE are taken.  I expect in 2016 the entry for IGCSE to go up even higher. How this though will be resolved is what now needs to be closely watched. Do the exam boards feel they can announce such large changes to pass rates?   For schools the solution is straightforward – publish two lots of progress figures one for GCSE and one for IGCSEs.  The main issue is fairness to the learners and it is how Ofqual ensure this that we need to keep our eye on.  Thank you to Ofqual for being so open and I really hope that you successfully resolve this situation in the next month.
Chris Beeden